Miami-Dade County commissioners approve plan to revive Coconut Grove Playhouse

Commissioners give thumbs up to plan to revive decaying, shuttered venue

MIAMI - Miami-Dade County Commissioners approved a plan on Tuesday to revive the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse.

"We gotta find a way to make this happen and get this facility up and running," said Commissioner Dennis Moss.

The peeling, rusted and shuttered decay of the Coconut Grove Playhouse has Florida International University in the wings with a plan for theater education, and a regional theater run by GableStage's veteran director, Joe Adler.

"It has to be the kind of theater that is doing exciting work," said Adler. "The kind of theater that simulates the community and brings more actors and directors and writers into South Florida."

The Mediterranean Revival-style theater, built in 1926, reverted back to the state last year, in a time warp from its final 2005 season.

"Mismanagement, the cost of running a theater changed," said Stephen Licata, a business owner in Coconut Grove.

"Some of the things spiraled out of control in terms of debt with vendors," said Christopher Bishop, the Playhouse's former director of education. "Some kind of antagonism in the board and politics involved."

Left to rot, the city of Miami multiplied code violations and fines.

"They'll (Trespassers will) break a window, force their way in one of the doors, go from the roof," said Miami Police Commander Richard Gentry.

The state has since boarded the broken windows and painted over the graffiti, but the new plan for curtains up calms a community concerned about commercial development taking over.

"It's exciting, I'm glad it moved forward," said Licata. "The Playhouse is one of the arteries that is feeding the Grove."

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