The Coconut Grove Playhouse. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons’ flickr.
Raul Herrera/Staff Writer
The University has partnered with Miami-Dade County to reestablish the Coconut Grove Playhouse – according to Kenneth Jessell, a good business deal that the University says will offer teaching and internship opportunities.
The senior vice president of Finance and Administration and chief financial officer mentioned some of the reasoning behind such a transaction.
“Certainly we were into it because it gave us a high priority to establish the Coconut Grove Playhouse as a real important treasure to the community, a high quality regional theater,” said Jessell.
The Coconut Grove Playhouse was constructed in 1927 and closed in 2006 according to a FIU Board of Trustees Finance and Audit Committee Meeting presentation. Jessel presented a Miami Today article that reported the State of Florida took ownership of the Playhouse in 2012 due to issues of violations against the state’s property deed.
A Florida Theater On Stage article pointed out that the state of Florida gave approval to a lease business plan between Miami-Dade and the University.
“The Governor’s Cabinet approved the University pursuing the partnership,” said Dean Brian Schriner of the College of Architecture and the Arts.
According to Miami Today, the lease talks between the county and the University went on about issues regarding encumbrances and finances.
Jessell pointed to how the deal will benefit the University.
“Our faculty and staff will have many opportunities from the teaching side, where the faculty and students will be involved in performance. They’ll be involved in set design, sound design, lighting, all of those things that go into real regional theater.”
Schriner also mentioned the benefits for the University in his email.
“[It’s a] Worlds Ahead Experiential Learning Opportunity that increases Students’ workforce readiness, [with] increased course offerings that improve student access, ease space limitations and lead to timely graduation,” wrote Schriner.
Schriner, the University Board of Trustees presentation, and Jessell all pointed to how there will be no financial costs to the University from such a deal.
“The University assumes no financial risk in the partnership,” said Schriner.
Instead, the county will, as said in the presentation, “be responsible for all funding requirements, including removal of all encumbrances on the property.”
“The county already has $20 million of funding to invest,” said Jessell. “There was no source of funding previously. And this funding came from county bond issues, associated with improving the quality of life in Miami-Dade County.”
A University Board of Trustees Agenda and Finance Audit Committee report found on their website clarified that $5 million of these finances come from Convention Development Tax bond proceeds, while $15 million comes from the Building Better Communities-General Obligation Bond program.
The Board of Trustees meeting presentation claims that the University has a “first priority to lease the CGP before it is offered to local government, the federal government or private parties.” It also points that the proposal will have the county and the University as co-lessees, with a non-profit arts group known as GableStage operating the theater for programs and the like.
According to the presentation and report, GableStage will be in charge of operation costs, parking management, grounds keeping and other maintenance requirements.
Further information can be found at the FIU Board of Trustees website.
Editor Bill Hirschman’s Florida Theater On Stage article notes that the playhouse has played a part in Florida cultural history. It was one of the leading regional theaters of the post-World War II era, according to Hirschman.
Meanwhile, Jessell and Schriner expressed their optimism.
“This partnership creates a unique opportunity for FIU, Miami-Dade County and GableStage to engage the community in creating, producing, presenting, promoting, appreciating and exploring the performing and visual arts,” said Schriner. “It is modeled after many outstanding and successful programs across the country.”
“We’re not gonna let the deal falter. This truly is a quality business plan and we have key elements that were not present in the prior ownership of the theater,” said Jessell.