I have shepherded the Coconut Grove Playhouse for six years now, and am happy that most of the elements of a restoration are agreed upon.
The site plan designed by the architectural firm, in conjunction with the preservation consultant, is almost exactly what I am ready to recommend to the commission – except only for a more complete restoration of the middle part of the historical theater (technically the proscenium arch).
In that regard, I believe the Heisenbottle design, which seeks to preserve the proscenium arch, is a desirable modification of the Arquitectónica/Jorge Hernandez design.
I also have recommended to the Miami Parking Authority to reduce the height and mass of the parking facility so that it does not overwhelm the theater. Luckily, the Playhouse site is at about 14 feet above sea level and lends itself to underground parking, as was done at Cocowalk.
All of the above can hopefully be achieved with a theater whose capacity is in the range of 450-550, which Mayor Giménez has endorsed – assuming the capital funds are available. On that issue, we now have a tender offer from City of Miami officials, including Mayor Francis Suarez that would add as much as $10 million to the capital funding. There are also indications that the Grove’s Business Improvement District (BID), headed by Commissioner Ken Russell, will contribute to the capital funding.
Counting on an infusion of substantial private funds, as was done for the Performing Arts Center, is not an option that merits further consideration at this time. The reasons are many, but the main reason is that there is no consensus on the need or feasibility of a much-larger theater, as proposed by Mike Eidson and his group. I thank, in that connection, Chairman Esteban Bovo for his willingness to have two Sunshine meetings in which this possibility was discussed.
And I also thank Mike Eidson for his generosity. If we do indeed accomplish the restoration of the Playhouse to what is the classic size of a “regional theater” (approximately 500 seats) and not merely a mini-theater that feeds on commercial, housing and parking revenues for its capital and operating needs, it will be in great part due to his untiring efforts to lead us in that direction.
Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez can be reached at 305-669-4003 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.