Is Kevin Spacey The Coconut Grove Playhouse Angel Or Devil?
Playhouse panorama – All pics by author on March 10, 2015

There is disturbing news coming out of Miami concerning the renovations of the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Everyone thought the Playhouse Plan was well on the way when last year all the financial encumbrances that delayed restoring and reopening the Playhouse had been settled. Then recently, Arquitectonica was chosen as the lead design company to oversee the project. However, quietly in the background lawyer Mike Eidson (Lewis S. “Mike” Eidson) started agitating for a new plan. In a nutshell, it’s far more ambitious than the 300 seat theater proposed as a Trojan Horse for a huge parking garage at Main Highway and Charles Avenue.

Eidson’s plan includes 2 theaters as a Trojan Horse for a huge parking garage at Main Highway and Charles Avenue, one about 350 seats and the other approximately 750 seats. [See: The Latest Play on the Coconut Grove Playhouse for Memorandum of Understanding penned by Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez and an overview of the Eidson Plan.] Because this plan is far more ambitious than the previous plan, it will require an additional $40 million to the $20 million already earmarked for the Playhouse restoration. That money has to come from somewhere and Eidson, not unlike Zero Mostel, has been out fund-raising.

Once again weeds are growing out of the house, not the ground.

This is a philanthropist?

In the Business called Show, someone who comes in with enough cash to rescue a play is called an angel. The names being bandied about as so-called “philanthropists” who want to swoop in and save the Coconut Grove Playhouse sound more like devils.

As of this writing, Mike Eidson has yet to return my call. I was hoping for an ON THE RECORD confirmation or denial before taking this to print. However, time is of the essence considering the Miami-Dade Commission will be voting on the Suarez Memorandum of Understanding tomorrow at 2PM. [If I turn out to be wrong, I’ll apologize profusely all around.]

It will take more than 3 “philanthropists” to cough up $40 million, so there will, no doubt, be more names added (or subtracted) from this list. However, 3 names have filtered down to me: Pointe Group, Grass River Properties and Aries Development. Long-time readers of the NNS Newsroom will recognize Aries Development as the company that I have been writing about for the last 6 years. It is owned by rapacious developer Gino Falsetto, who has allowed the E.W.F. Stirrup House to undergo nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect.

SLIGHT TANGENT: It’s worth writing about The Pointe Group and Grass River Properties, but those are stories for another day. I had never heard of Grass River Properties until it came up in connection with the Eidson Plan. Through sheer coincidence, this reporter attended the Golden Pines Neighborhood Association meeting last night at which [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff and the local police Commander were forced to answer for Grass River’s highrise at 27th Avenue and 27th Street. To his credit Grass River rep Christian Cobb was there to answer questions and he was excoriated by several of the residents for parking and traffic difficulties around the project. From what Cobb said many of these problems will be solved soon, but could have been solved a lot sooner had Grass River been proactive, meeting with residents before the project started, or responding to complaints that have been made for the last 18 months. TANGENT OVER.

However, it was the words “Aries Development” and “philanthropist” in the same sentence that made me throw up in my mouth a little. This reporter has written story after story about what a BAD NEIGHBOUR Gino Falsetto has been to the West Grove neighbourhood that he carpetbagged his way into in order to build The Monstrosity. The Monstrosity is immediately behind — and dwarfs — the E.W.F. Stirrup House, which he controls through a 50-year lease, and has allowed to undergo nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect.

Why is the E.W.F. Stirrup House
culturally important to Miami?
Read: Happy Birthday Coconut
Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past

This is a philanthropist?

When asked, Aries Development puts forward two different lies for allowing this situation to continue. Pick one: Either they ran out of money before they got to the Stirrup House restoration or the city keeps delaying them. Dismissing the latter lie is easy: Aries only filed plans last year with the city, plans that are totally inadequate for historic preservation, under which all renovations must take place.

The “ran out of money” lie is even more laughable considering that Aries: 1). Built two hugely expensive basement levels below The Monstrosity for parking and a private Members Only Wine Cave called La Cava; 2). Is operating 3 restaurants on the ground floor of The Monstrosity; 3). Loaned the now-bankrupt Playhouse Board an undetermined amount of money, which is how it ended up with the Bicycle Shop in compensation; 4). “Squatted” on the Playhouse Parking Lot, collecting the fees from people silly enough to park there; 5). Is about to pony up a portion of $40 million dollars — out of the goodness of its corporate heart — to save the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

This is a philanthropist?


It’s time for people to treat Gino Falsetto as the slum landlord he is and reject his money-grubbing social climbing until he fulfills the promises he’s already made concerning the E.W.F. Stirrup House. 

More than any single individual Gino Falsetto stands to profit the most from a successful and lively Coconut Grove Playhouse. Gino Falsetto isn’t a philanthropist; he’s out to line his own pockets at the expense of everybody else.

A philanthropist would not allow this cultural TREASURE of Black Grove to waste away. A philanthropist would have already done the right thing. A philanthropist would not have created the current blight that is the E.W.F. Stirrup House and the Bicycle Shop. 

Gino Falsetto should should be made to clean up the messes he’s already created before anyone considers his money clean enough to touch.

This is a philanthropist?

TO BE FAIR: There are some real angels in this story: Mike Eidson and Kevin Spacey.

Eidson has come up with a game-changing Playhouse Plan that will be more than just a rinky-dink 300 seat theater with a parking garage wrapped around it.

Furthermore, having interviewed a half dozen people OFF THE RECORD about Mike Eidson, everyone tells me he’s on the side of the angels. Seriously. One person used that expression. His only interest seems to be to bring live theater back to the corner of Main Highway and Charles Avenue.

Those in the know have been exercising caution about embracing Eidson’s Plan, though. The big fear is that it will take him so long to raise the $40 million, and solve all the design problems, that Florida just yanks the lease and sells the property to the highest bidder for a huge development. My fear is that Eidson is in such a hurry to show that he’s got this under control that he’s not too choosy about who he climbs into bed with.

Kevin Spacey, who has signed onto the Eidson Plan as Artistic Consultant, should also be considered an angel. There’s no denying Spacey’s acting chops. Were those films not career enough he’s also credited with restoring the reputation of London’s venerated Old Vic Theater as Artistic Director.

I am sure Spacey is getting involved with the Coconut Grove Playhouse for all the right reasons. While not as old as the Old Vic, it also has a venerated history, which I’m sure has not escaped his notice. Were I an an actor of his stature, that would be the kind of challenge I would take on next.

This is a philanthropist?

However, based on the little I know of him, I don’t think he would approve of the treatment of E.W.F. Stirrup’s legacy. It’s less than 200 feet from the Stirrup House to Coconut Grove Playhouse. Kevin Spacey needs to be made aware of how this carpetbagging rapscallion treats the people of West Grove, in which the Coconut Grove Playhouse resides.

To be clear: It’s only because E.W.F. Stirrup was Black has his house been allowed to undergo almost a decade of Demolition by Neglect. More than anyone else, except for perhaps his contemporary Ralph Monroe, Stirrup put his stamp on Coconut Grove and, therefore, Miami. Yet Monroe’s house, The Barnacle, just a few thousand feet away, is now memorialized as a State Park. The E.W.F Stirrup House is memorialized as more Gino Falsetto blight, just like the Bicycle Shop.

A panorama showing the parking lot between the Bicycle Shop and the north wall of the Coconut
Grove Playhouse. When Aries acquired the Bicycle Shop one of the first things it did was rip the roof off.
This led to an unsafe construction site, which I reported to By Law Compliance until they finally sealed the
building. However, then the structure became unsafe because it no longer had a roof to hold the walls in. Now
the interior is criss-crossed with massive steel beams bolted to the walls and floors to stabilize the structure.

This is a philanthropist?

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.