$20M Coconut Grove Playhouse renovation plan booed off stage

Miami commissioners reject auditorium demolition

The Coconut Grove Playhouse and Ken Russell (Credit: Wiki Commons)
The Coconut Grove Playhouse and Ken Russell (Credit: Wiki Commons)


Miami commissioners closed the curtains on an initial $20 million plan to renovate the Coconut Grove Playhouse that entailed razing the playhouse’s deteriorated 1,100-seat auditorium and replacing it with a modern 300-seat theater.

In a 3-2 vote on Thursday, the commissioners moved to preserve the exterior facade of the theater — a motion carried out by Commissioner Ken Russell, according to the Miami Herald. The decision came after an appeal of the city’s demolition and renovation blueprint, which was approved earlier this year but met with strong opposition from preservationists who didn’t want to see the historic property torn down.

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The city preservation board’s conditions now include a 600-seat theater that would sit within the fully restored auditorium building. Private arts patron and lawyer Mike Eidson made an offer to build a new 700-seat theater that would cost at least $48 million, in addition to $20 million in bond money earmarked by the county for the project. The motion also reportedly sets a 90-day deadline for the balance of the needed money to be secured. The resolution is expected to be considered by the County Commission next week.

The state-owned property stopped operating as a theater in 2006 after accruing overwhelming debt. Six years later, ownership reverted to the state, and Miami-Dade partnered with Florida International University to create a plan for redeveloping and reactivating the theater. [Miami Herald]Amanda Rabines