Coconut Grove Playhouse Facing Foreclosure, New Developers

In the fall of 2012, for Coconut Grove activists, everything seemed to be going according to plan. The scenario they backed, in which the state of Florida makes good on its promise to reclaim the decrepit and shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse because it's not meeting its requirement to show live theater, was actually happening. Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez even got in on the action, proposing that the State hand the property over to the county after it reclaimed it, so that the county could then spend the $20 million it has earmarked for the playhouse's restoration.

But in December, the state of Florida dropped a bomb on the optimists: It wants $5.8 million for the property. And now, a Miami mortgage company has filed to foreclose on the building. Ah, the drama of the theater.

See also:

- Coconut Grove Playhouse Ownership Could Revert to the State of Florida Next Month

- What the Actors' Playhouse Fundraiser Means for the Coconut Grove Playhouse

- Give It Back Rally: A Big Group Hug For the Coconut Grove Playhouse

The South Florida Business Journal reports that GH Mortgage is complicating an already complex situation by filing for foreclosure on the playhouse. The company granted the playhouse a $1.5 mortgage in 2007. It's just another element of the ever-growing but slow-moving debacle that's been raging over the playhouse for the better part of the last decade, beginning, critics say, when the theater's board of directors ran the business into the ground.

The state took control of the falling-apart Coconut Grove Playhouse in October 2012, revoking its deed, which required that the theater remain open for theatrical performances. The Miami Herald reports that Gimenez and Coconut Grove activists leading the fight to save the playhouse expected the state to hand over the property free of charge. It's kind of a ballsy expectation, especially given that rules on the books require the state to charge fair market price. A Gimenez aide told the Herald that paying millions for the property is "not in the cards."

Local politicians and activists are still holding out hope that they can persuade the state to ignore the lawbooks just this once -- especially because the county stands prepared to spend $20 million on the theater if it can only get its hands on it. Frustratingly, that money cannot be used to purchase the playhouse; it's earmarked solely for repairs. Yes, repairs to a building it doesn't yet own.

The foreclosure suit now means that the battle for the playhouse (more of a reality TV show than a theatrical drama, really) will be played out in court as well as in politicians' offices. Hey, at least it's not predictable.

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Ciara LaVelle is New Times' former arts and culture editor. She earned her BS in journalism at Boston University and moved to Florida in 2004. She joined New Times' staff in 2011.
Contact: Ciara LaVelle