County OKs Coconut Grove Playhouse takeover, makeover
By Ashley Hopkins
Construction may soon begin at the site of Miami's historic Coconut Grove Playhouse.
The Miami-Dade commission approved Monday an action plan by the Cultural Affairs Department and asked administration officials to get the project running as quickly as possible.
With $4 million in debt hanging over its head, the playhouse, which has been closed since 2006, could use a facelift. To save the cash-strapped theater and strengthen the arts, former County Manager George Burgess had recommended dissolving the theater's board and handing ownership to the county.
According to county documents provided by Michael Spring, county cultural affairs director, in order to start building at the site, the Coconut Grove Playhouse and the Department of Cultural Affairs must:
nTransfer theater management from Coconut Grove LLC, current owner of the site, to GableStage, a community theater company.
nImplement a site master plan that would allow for construction of a new, 300-seat theater, address historic preservation issues and provide space for an additional theater that could be developed later.
nUse county capital funding to construct the new theater.
As the project moves down the governmental pipeline, nearly $20 million in approved county bond funds would be used to construct the new theater before ownership was transferred to GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Ave.
But before the property's ownership can transfer, playhouse officials must resolve all outstanding debt.
According to county documents, the theater is to sell a parcel of property, mortgaged for $600,000, to pay off $350,000 owed to the project's developer, Henry Pino's Strategic Properties Group.
The playhouse has also racked up a series of fines levied by the City of Miami. According to county documents, despite attempts to maintain upkeep on the historic facility and appeal city action, Miami continued to issue building code citations.
According to county documents, on Sept. 8 Playhouse officials met with city representatives to discuss the building's condition and both groups expressed willingness to resolve the matter. While the city has agreed to stop issuing new citations, city and county officials are discussing how to handle the outstanding fines.
While the county commission would have to approve each step in the playhouse action plan, Commissioner Carlos Gimenez asked Monday that administration officials begin to look into what can be done to get the project moving.
The plan "is basically a series of action steps that could happen, but doesn't necessarily have to happen," he said. The administration "needs some direction from the commission as to whether we want them to proceed....We need to find out if this is a viable project."
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