Letters to the Editor

Different view of county’s plan to ‘renovate’ the Coconut Grove Playhouse

By Francis X. Suarez

Mayor of Miami

Mayor Suarez’s veto sides with preservationist for the Coconut Grove Playhouse

Mayor Francis Suarez's veto sides with preservationist for the Coconut Grove Playhouse, May 17, 2019.
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Mayor Francis Suarez's veto sides with preservationist for the Coconut Grove Playhouse, May 17, 2019.

Dear Residents:

With my first veto as the city of Miami Mayor and the reinstatement of the Historic and Environmental Preservation Board’s decision, we have sent an unequivocal message that historic preservation in our community is imperative.

The county’s plan to “renovate” the Coconut Grove Playhouse has ignited a passionate debate about historic preservation and the future of cultural art facilities in our community.

Unfortunately, the county, in its proposal, has misled our residents and created a false narrative. To clarify the record in this polemical arena and for residents to make informed decisions, I am compelled to debunk these falsehoods.

Falsehood #1: The county’s plan is fully funded at $22 million and ready to proceed immediately. The reality is that the city of Miami, via the Miami Parking Authority (“MPA”), will shoulder the majority of the financial burden of the county’s plan. Using conservative estimates regarding construction costs, the city of Miami will be responsible for almost an additional $30 million to the county’s project, which will require the issuance of bonds to finance it.

When reviewed in its entirety, the county’s plan is short about $21 million. This deficiency will require the county to seek a joint venture with a real estate developer or borrow money, which is not permitted under the current version of the lease and will necessitate an amendment to it approved by the Cabinet of the State of Florida.

The county’s proposal replaces a historic structure to a mostly commercial real estate space with an attached subservient theater. As opposed to the advertised $22 million program, the county’s plan is more than $50 million, with a substantial financial contribution from the city of Miami and its residents.

Falsehood #2: The county’s plan spends a substantial amount of funds in the preservation of the Coconut Grove Playhouse. The reality is that the county’s plan spends zero in restoring the playhouse. The county’s bait and switch is not in conformity with the funds raised by the county’s 2005 bond to restore the playhouse.

But what the county’s plan contemplates is using funds from the city of Miami to restore the Playhouse, which “restores” the façade and destroys the playhouse.

Falsehood #3: The county’s repeated statements that they are the only party financially supporting the playhouse theater. The reality is that the city of Miami, via the Miami Parking Authority, is the only party committed to an operational subsidy of the theater.

Using conservative estimates, the city of Miami will likely contribute in the first year of operations close to $500,000 and remains committed to an operational subsidy going forward. Unlike the advertised characterizations by the county, the city of Miami supports the theater from both a capital and operational perspective.

Consistent with my veto message, I remain committed to further discussion about the future of the Coconut Grove Playhouse. But we must consider all proposals carefully and understand the real facts to arrive at the best proposal for our crown jewel.

I look forward to opening night at the new and renovated Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Francis X. Suarez

Mayor of Miami.

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