Miami leaders discuss future of Coconut Grove Playhouse

Miami-Dade mayor maintains county has only viable plan at this time

MIAMI – Miami city leaders discussed a controversial plan Wednesday to renovate part and tear down part of the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse.  

"In six years, it will be 100 years old. We have very few buildings that age in Miami. We need to protect them," said Mike Edison, president of the Coconut Grove Playhouse Preservation League.

Restoration and preservation of the Coconut Grove Playhouse is no doubt the longest running story the stage has ever told. The county wants to preserve the theater's facade and build a 300-seat theater.

"We are the only ones that have a viable solution right now," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. "There is no viable solution right now from anybody else because they don't have the money, the capacity to do what they say they want to do."

"The people of the city of Miami voted for restoration, not demolition, 14 years ago," Carol Lopez Bethel argued. 

Critics want the entire structure restored, including a 700-plus-seat theater.

"We want to do it right, and I think this thing has been held back by people who are afraid we don't have enough money. And I am confident if we reached a reasonable agreement, we would be able to raise the money easily," Edison said. 

On Wednesday, city of Miami commissioners heard from both sides about what to do with the crumbling iconic building.

"We want to keep the whole building. The whole building is historic. It is the gateway to the Grove," Edison said. 

But years of infighting between the county, the city and preservationists have left the landmark languishing in decay and some said it is too far gone. 

"I loved working in the building but I could never love the building," said Ken Kurtz, who used to work at the Playhouse and is for the county's plan. 

The frustration over the lack of action even prompted a Bob Dylan parody. 

"How many votes does it take before the reasonable decision stays? How many years does it take until more people can see more good plays?" Silvan Sideman asked. "The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind. It is for one last time in your hands."