Coconut Grove Playhouse Could Be Saved by FIU, Miami-Dade County, and GableStage
In 2012, things weren't looking so great for the Coconut Grove Playhouse. The Grove community rallied against its board of directors for what they say was negligence to treat the building properly. Companies such as the Aries Group, to whom the playhouse owed money, squabbled over exactly how much the debt was worth. And finally, the State of Florida reclaimed the property under an automatic reverter clause that required its board to keep the theater operational. (It hadn't hosted a performance since 2006.)
But 2013 is a new year. In January, Actors' Playhouse and the University of Miami banded together to rescue and preserve its historic artifacts. Curbed Miami has been tracking plans by architect Richard Heisenbottle for the restoration of the building.
And now, Florida International University, Miami-Dade County, and GableStage have placed a bid to reclaim the theater from the state, opening up $20 million in county funds earmarked for the purpose of returning the playhouse to its former glory.
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The Miami Herald reports that under the recently submitted bid, the state would turn over the playhouse to Florida International University for a rent of $300 per month. (The state's rules mandate that the property is offered to universities and other state institutions before it's sold at market value.)
The county would then finally use its earmarked $20 million to restore the theater, which has been deteriorating since it closed its doors in 2006. GableStage, arguably Miami's most successful theater company, would manage the operations of the playhouse while partnering with FIU's theater department to give its students real-world experience inside a (hopefully) functional performance space.
The plan must be approved by Gov. Rick Scott and his board of trustees in order to move forward. A spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection, which handles issues related to property owned by the state, told the Herald that FIU is so far the only institution to place a bid for the playhouse. The deadline to do so is April 15.
Still, nothing is certain. Even if Governor Scott approves the new plans, there's the matter of those pesky outstanding debts to developers. One of them, the Aries Group, effectively crushed Mayor Carlos Gimenez's plans to buy the playhouse last year when it rejected the county's offers for settlement.
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.