Coconut Grove Playhouse Redo Balances: A Modern Theater That Preserves History


Miami Senior High School and Coconut Grove Playhouse share history. The same architect designed both. Both are deep in the hearts of generations of native and near-native Miamians. Each suffered decades of changes and a lack of maintenance that needed repairs.

But while the rebuilt Miami Senior High School continues to graduate from the proud Stingary, the playhouse is closed for 15 years, robbing the entire Miami generation and the historic district, once the finest gem of Coconut Grove. I did.

As a former member of the Miami-Dade School Board and the Coconut Grove Playhouse Board, I have a history of both of these icons.

What I learned from the struggle to bring the county’s oldest high school back to glory is the art of compromise. The restoration process had to balance historic preservation with the modern needs of a growing campus, future maintenance challenges, and the nostalgia of past graduates. Together, we emphasized the need to restore Miami Senior High School and respect its past while providing future generations with a functional and viable campus that meets their needs.

I believe in art, education, historic preservation, and our duty to be a steward for future generations. That’s the idea I, sadly, brought into the superpolitical playhouse controversy when I became the newly elected County Commissioner of Coconut Grove.

Over the years, playhouse-minded people have been fighting for a competing vision of what an activated theater should be. The $ 23 million Playhouse project, fully funded by Miami-Dade County and its partners, requires a 300-seat theater that retains the iconic facade building and other elements of the original. The plan is to place shops and restaurants in the front building, similar to when the playhouse opened as a movie theater in 1927. It also includes the long-awaited 300-spot garage with office space to serve theaters, businesses and schools in the area. With center gloves.

Some people feel that the theater isn’t big enough. Some people want to preserve the entire structure, as in its heyday. My approach was to find a compromise and a path forward, taking into account the age and poor condition of the structure.

I reviewed all documents, complaints and reports and met with county lawyers, staff and project architects. I asked them to better adapt the project to the aesthetics of Globe and add elements that incorporate educational opportunities in the community. We reviewed the lease agreement with Florida, which owns the property, to see how we could change the elements of the approved plan.

What I found was that I had to go back to the State Cabinet, Florida International University, Gable Stage, Miami City, and the County Commission to make significant changes to the planning elements described in Reese. To increase the size, you need to limit the extra funding and restart the entire approval process, which used to take more than a decade. You also need to find a solution to bring more traffic while maintaining the size of the current building in the adjacent residential area.

The money the county promised for the project in 2004 was waiting to be spent for 17 years. Other public or private organizations have not submitted checks large enough to pay for more expensive plans. If the county can’t get it done, the state gets it back and doesn’t invest any money in the repair of the playhouse. The city of Miami, which is currently suing Miami-Dade County over a playhouse, can seek control of the state, but to preserve other historic buildings it actually owns, such as the Olympia Theater. You need to use the right amount of money. Downtown Miami.

The world of Miami’s art has changed since the survival of the Coconut Grove Playhouse. If the theater is too big and uncompetitive, you will eventually need to constantly inject public funds. An example is in Miami. This project will use the revenue generated by the garage and commercial elements to support the theater. eternally.

Anyone who cares about playhouse has good intentions. I’ve been asking for feedback from many, and I’ll continue to do so. But we have to accept the Miami Senior High School example.

We can and will bring great theaters back to today’s gloves, setting politics aside and maintaining the best of our history.

Raquel Legalado represents District 7 of the Miami-Dade County Commission.

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