Coconut Grove Playhouse Settlement Delayed Again Over Debts Between Board and Creditor

Categories: Theater
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Laine Doss
These "Give It Back" protesters have a long wait ahead.
If you're going to lend hundreds of thousands of dollars to someone, you think you'd at least keep a receipt.

But disputes over who owes what to whom are the latest roadblock in the Coconut Grove Playhouse settlement, according to the Miami Herald. Development group Aries claims they've given over $2 million to the playhouse's board of directors, while the board contends that Aries owes it more than $900,000 in unpaid rent.

Neither side seems willing to budge -- and that likely means an even longer wait for the Coconut Grove residents who staged a "Give It Back" protest in support of reviving the playhouse earlier this month.

As we reported earlier, the playhouse has sat empty in a state of limbo since its board closed it in 2007. According to a deed restriction, the state of Florida has the authority to reclaim the property from the board, because it's no longer being used for theatrical productions. But the debt associated with the property is so high that nobody -- not the state, not Miami-Dade county, and not any private investors -- is willing to shoulder it.

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, in an effort to settle a portion of that debt, offered Aries $250,000 as a settlement. Aries rejected the deal.

So, what now? Aries is drawing up documentation of its playhouse-related expenditures; the county can't say for sure whether it'll be able to increase its offer; and the playhouse itself is, well, in pretty much the same position it's been in for the past six years: empty, run-down, and without much hope of recovery.

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Coconut Grove Playhouse - CLOSED

3500 Main Highway, Coconut Grove, FL

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Yet another scam
Yet another scam

In the summer of 2008 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff knowingly approved the destruction of Miami's oldest chapel and the Grove's most sacred landmark, the Saint Stephen's chapel, built on Main Highway in 1912. Commissioner Sarnoff then worked behind the scenes with Saint Stephen's project manager, Jim Werbelow, of the Related Group, to orchestrate the demolition of the chapel illegally, over the weekend and in the middle of the night, so that it could be replaced with the giant, big-box retail building that exists on the sacred site today.Commissioner Sarnoff received a large campaign donation from the Related Group in exchange for his services in the scam. This is all very well documented in public records. Jorge Perez, CEO of the Related Group, has a son who attends school at Saint Stephen's. Perez was the biggest (anonymous) donor to the project. When the destruction of the chapel was complete, the Related Group sent Saint Stephen's pastor, Willie Allen Faiella, on a cruise, while Commissioner Sarnoff advised church leaders on how to handle damage control due to bad press and public outcry. If you get a few drinks in the churches treasurer, Charity Johnson, she'll tell you everything, but she's got to be pretty juiced up before she'll talk. Negotiations to sell the giant retail building that now occupies the site of the 1912 chapel to none other than, you guessed it, the Related Group, are now in the works.And now Commissioner Sarnoff is at it again, appointing his wife, Teresa Sarnoff as the organizer of the "Give it Back" campaign, i.e. the "rounding up" of neighborhood activists to "save" the Coconut Grove Playhouse,. a way to maintain control of the 'trouble makers," so that Commissioner Sarnoff can get in on the action again, from behind the scenes, with another greedy developer. And all while pretending to represent the interests of the people.Why not screw the citizens out of another piece of their heritage and cultural identity? It worked so well the last time, and for a few, it was extremely profitable.

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