Miami-Dade County Commission Resolves to Save the Coconut Grove Playhouse

The Coconut Grove Playhouse is one step closer to the revival neighborhood activists have supported for years. Yesterday, the Miami-Dade County Commission adopted a resolution to save the historic building, planning to work with the City of Miami to settle the building's debts.

Under the resolution, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is authorized to pay as much as $120,000 apiece to the playhouse's debtees, the minimum amount required by the state of Florida's mandated deadline of Jan. 15. If that deadline is not met, ownership of the property revokes to the state, which is legally required to sell it to the highest bidder.

See also: Coconut Grove Playhouse Restoration Plan Gets State Approval

Installments of $120,000 are just the beginning of the debts owed to creditors. Estimates of the building's debts have reached as high as $3.5 million, including money owed to the city of Miami and the Coconut Grove BID, as well as claims by the Aries Group that the playhouse's former board of directors borrowed as much as $2 million.

The plan for the property, should the Jan. 15 deadline be met, has yet to be determined. Architect Richard Heisenbottle has submitted plans to preserve most of the building, including the facade, with renovations to bring the existing theater spaces back to functionality. But another plan aims to save the facade alone and demolish the rest of the structure to rebuild a new, potentially smaller theater space and include retail space around the building. This would technically preserve the historic architecture of the playhouse, but some preservationists say that plan doesn't go far enough -- that the inside of the theater is just as historic as its exterior.

However it's brought to working order, the new playhouse will eventually stage shows as part of a partnership between GableStage and Florida International University.

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