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Written by Gabriela Henriquez Stoikow on October 4, 2022

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Miami-Dade County has asked the City of Miami Building Department to obtain permits and begin reconstruction of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, operations manager Jimmy Morales confirmed to Miami Today.

Once the county has obtained the necessary municipal permits, the county can begin site preparations, secure the construction contract, and then begin partial renovations and construction of the performance hall.

Overall, procurement can take up to a year, followed by two to three years of construction. “We won’t know until a contractor comes along and gives us their estimate,” Morales said. Also, it’s unclear how long the permitting process may take as it falls under the jurisdiction of the City of Miami, he added.

While these stages take place, the county should stay in contact with Florida International University, which is a co-tenant of the performance hall, and with the GableStage theater company, which is to operate and occupy the renovated performance hall. “They continue to work together during the construction period to develop the training and awareness programs that will come out of the facility,” Morales said.

The county has approved $21.6 million for construction, according to information posted online by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs. In December 2018, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded the County $2 million for the Performance Hall Project for the construction of the 300-seat theater.

With inflation and rising construction costs, it is still unclear how much the project would cost by the time construction is expected to begin. “We’re probably a year and a half to two years away from getting a build offer,” Morales said. “The current pandemic has generated cost increases, so part of our hope is that the market will return to some normality by the time we go to market.”

“Right now we think we have adequate funding for this; we will cross that bridge when we get there,” he added. “I’m sure that if there are shortfalls, we will find ways to overcome them; we’ll either have to do some value engineering or identify some of the financing, but for now, we think we have the adequate financing.

Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami just resolved a three-year legal battle in June that is stalling the project. The county has therefore received the final certificate of suitability for the project and is now able to proceed with construction.

The Coconut Grove Playhouse permanently closed its doors 16 years ago. Now county officials are excited to move forward with the project.
“There’s a whole generation of Miamians who missed out on the theatrical experience of Coconut Grove,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado said in an email. “I am so pleased that the work to bring this gem back is continuing and I look forward to it taking its rightful place as the centerpiece of the revitalization of Grove’s central business district.”

The county’s proposed design includes a 300-seat theater that incorporates the remaining historic elements of the original theatre.

“The entire historic front building, the iconic sight that served as the southern threshold of the Coconut Grove shopping area on the main highway, will be restored, including the reconstruction of the 1927 Kiehnel and Elliott design from the parapet to the ‘corner entrance, the restoration of street-level storefronts along the main highway and Charles Avenue, and the return of the building’s original sienna color,’ details the county’s website .

Additionally, the original double stage arch above the stage, Solomonic columns, fountains, decorative grilles and cornice should be retained and incorporated into the design of the new theatre. Simultaneously, the Miami Parking Authority must build a garage next door for the same capacity.

“I think people who come to this facility will have a wonderful combination of a historic property with state-of-the-art facilities,” Mr. Morales said. “I think it’s a wonderful combination they’re going to have.”

The county already has a professional services agreement with a team led by Arquitectonica for a total cost of $2.4 million which includes basic services, contingencies and reimbursable expenses for the entire architecture and construction team. engineering, the county’s website says.

Miami-Dade is also working to redevelop 17 acres of county-owned land downtown, known as the Metrocenter Project. The goal is to transform downtown Miami into a 24-hour community that also includes a 300-seat theater.

Asked about the presence of two similarly sized cultural establishments in the county, Mr Morales said he did not believe they were in competition. “I think those are two separate things,” he said.

“The Coconut Grove Playhouse has for years been an important cultural and economic institution [attraction.] He created and brought people to the grove, restaurants, bars and shops took advantage of it, and this corner has now been dead for 16 years. So I think this project is about bringing it back in a sustainable way.