Tag Archives: Coconut Grove Playhouse

Bulldozing History in Coconut Grove

Say “Goodbye” to the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse while you still can.

Oh, there will be something erected on the northwest corner of Main Highway and Charles Avenue, and those assholes who profess to care about historic preservation will still call it the Coconut Grove Playhouse — they may even add the word “historic” to that designation. However, just like the E.W.F. Stirrup House, catercorner, this will merely be a replication of the playhouse, not a restoration.

In other words: Developers in Miami win again over history and all logic

To be fair, not that I’m in the mood to be, they are saving the part of the building called “the eyebrow”. Some call it the facade, but developers want to disabuse you from using that term. It’s not the facade, they’ll argue. To be fair they are technically right. It’s the front 20 feet of the building, the entrance, that wraps around the corner of Main and Charles. To be even more fair: it’s the best part of the building as viewed from the outside.

It’s a wonderful example of faux Mediterranean architecture and the only part of the Bright Plan ever built.

READ: Early 1920s: Coconut Grove’s Historic Timeline, which all but erases the Black history of the town that once had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else in the country.

But, as I said, I’m in no mood to be fair. Last week a Miami-Dade judge ruled in favour of Miami-Dade County’s lawsuit against the City of Miami.

Now follow the bouncing ball because this is really a Battle Royale between 3 levels of government:

First you need to know, the land is owned by the State of Florida, which entered into a complicated lease agreement involving Miami-Dade County. The county’s Cultural Czar, Michael Spring, then spent some time in back rooms —with no public consultation whatsoever— negotiating deals with GableStage, architectural firm Arquitectonica, and the Miami Parking Authority to renovate the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Once this cake was fully baked, Miami-Dade Country [read: Michael Spring] started a sham series of public consultations for input. But nothing ever changed, except around the margins. The fully baked cake got new icing, is all.

However much the County wanted to run this project without oversight, this project is still in the city of Miami and the city, not the country, had to sign off on it. To everyone’s amazement and consternation, Miami’s Historic Board (officially called the HEP Board, Historic and Environmental Preservation Board) decided the historic Playhouse didn’t need historic preservation and signed off on the County’s plan to tear down everything behind the eyebrow.

The back of the Playhouse looking towards the E.W.F. Stirrup House 

This naturally triggered public outrage and (I won’t give you every step along this trajectory, but) the City of Miami Commission overruled its own Historic Board, saying the entire historic structure, auditorium and all, had to be saved because, as many preservationists argued, that’s where the history happened.

This led to the court battle mentioned above, which Miami-Dade County recently won. Now the “developer” can do whatever it wants with the auditorium, including adding retail stores to the eyebrow and building a big honking parking garage to the footprint.

READ: Ruling of the Circuit Court paving the way to raze the auditorium.

The word “developer” is in quotes because — once again — nothing is ever a straight line in this story. The “developer” is a complicated consortium of interests, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Michael Spring, Senior Advisor to the Mayor for Culture and Recreation for Miami Dade County, who cooked all this up away from the prying eyes of the public who pays his salary;
  • Joseph Adler, 78 years old, Artistic Director of GableStage. GableStage is from the affluent city next door, Coral Gables, not Coconut Grove. It was his decision, apparently, to downsize the auditorium from 1100 seats to 300 seats. “Some people say” that the shlock movie producer pegged that number to the amount of seats GableStage currently fills in the Biltmore Hotel, where his productions run virtually rent-free.
  • Art Noriega, the head honcho of the Miami Parking Authority, a semi-autonomous board of the city, and someone I have often called the most powerful person in Miami government. His department is one of the only in the city that brings in revenue, so he pretty much has a free hand. This free hand decided to sell the Oak Street garage because he already knew he was building the huge Playhouse Parking Garage, before the public did.

It’s this author’s contention that the Playhouse revitalization is
merely an excuse to build a honking huge parking garage.
READ: The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse; Part IPart II

  • A smaller group of Robber Barons that really have no financial interest in the Playhouse revitalization, but have adjacent properties which will improve in value once this entire mess gets straaighted out. This includes names familiar to Not Now Silly readers, like Gino Falsetto and Peter Gardner, who (along with the descendants of E.W.F. Stirrup) are now trying to build a huge hotel immediately behind the Playhouse, across the street from the no longer historic E.W.F. Stirrup House, which has been replicated.

READ: Rapacious Developers Are Destroying A Historic Black Neighbourhood

Here’s what’s been sticking in my craw: Almost a decade ago I interviewed a person (who asked for anonymity, so I’m obligated) who ran down this entire scenario to me. We stood in front of the —then still historic— E.W.F. Stirrup House while they described a grand promenade that started at the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums (which this author has always called The Monstrosity) and continued through the Stirrup property across the street and continuing through to Commodore Plaza.

– Artist rendering of the proposed Grove Inn

I laughed. I scoffed. I discussed this with people in the know in both the Miami and Coconut Grove politics. They laughed and scoffed as well.

Everyone said it would never happen because the properties needed to be assembled were all zoned single family dwelling and they’d never get upzoning on that many properties.

Guess what? The Coconut Grove Village Council has already approved this hotel in theory and all it needs now is for the city of Miami, which has never met a developer it didn’t want to please, to approve the upzoning on the 7-8 properties needed to build this hotel.

As near as I can tell this hotel is a foregone conclusion, just as is the Playhouse replication. It’s all over but the whimpering by people who revere history.

FULL DISCLOSURE: During the brief period Miami Commissioner Ken Russell was running for Congress, I was his official biographer. Ken Russell has not contributed to this article (rant?) in any way.

How Will the Playhouse Redevelopment Hurt West Grove?

Coconut Grove is older than Miami, but has been treated
like its ugly step-sister ever since annexation in 1925.

West Grove, the historic Black enclave nestled within Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida, is currently threatened on all sides by White gentrification.

The latest challenge is the massive Coconut Grove Playhouse condo/restaurant/parking lot/theater redevelopment project threatening West Grove.

The Playhouse is at the extreme east end of Charles Avenue. It was designated a Historic Roadway because it is one of Miami’s oldest streets. It was laid out slightly out of true east/west alignment by E.W.F. Stirrup, who almost single-handed, created this neighbourhood and watched over its survival until he died in 1957. Stirrup was one of Florida’s first Black millionaires and at one time owned more properties in Coconut Grove than anyone else.

[tabembed align=”right”]

Further reading:

This reporter has been researching Charles Avenue and Main Highway since February 2009. Here are just a few of the stories from the archive.

Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!!
Now Honour Your Past

Who Is To Blame For The Destruction
of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?

Say Goodbye to the Stirrup
House While You Still Can

Unpacking Coconut Grove
Part One

Unpacking Coconut Grove
Part 1.1

The E.W.F. Stirrup House

Open Houses and Broken Laws

A Charles Avenue Love Story

An Open Email to the City of Miami

Signs along Charles Avenue

The Coconut Grove Playhouse
Trojan Horse; Part I; Part II

The Coconut Grove Playhouse
Deal Begins to Unfold

EXCLUSIVE: Are Valet Companies
Stealing From Miami Taxpayers?

The Bicycle Shop The Latest In The
Cultural Plunder of Coconut Grove

Aries Development Continues
To Rape Charles Avenue

Aftermath of the Great
Miami Tree Massacre

[/tabembed]The more things change, the more they stay the same.

When the Miami Historic Environment Preservation [HEP] Board voted earlier this month to demolish the theater, it took another step in destroying history in order to pay lip service to preserving it. This is the same thing the HEP did with the E.W.F. Stirrup House, catercorner to the back of the Playhouse, on south side of Charles. This magnificent century-old house has now been replaced — NOT RESTORED! — because the HEP will roll over for developers, history be damned.

The Coconut Grove Playhouse — just like the Stirrup House — underwent nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect. The Coconut Grove Playhouse’s developers — just like the Stirrup House’s developers — were then able to argue that extreme deterioration of the structure required it to be torn down.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The E.W.F Stirrup House before replacement

TO BE FAIR: The Playhouse developers were also able to argue the theater was renovated so many times since originally built, that it no longer was the old theater anymore. That was an argument only the HEP seemed to buy.

Ironically, the same could have been argued for the E.W.F. Stirrup House, which (according to anecdotal evidence) grew from a small 1-story Conch House to the impressive 2-story structure as Mr. Stirrup’s family and fortune grew.

However, that’s all water under the bridge.

Once the HEP approved the massive Playhouse redevelopment (in concept only) it became immediately clear how this Black neighbourhood will bear the brunt of that decision.

When it came time to build a polluting incinerator in Miami, it was given to West Grove. Almost 100 years later, when it came time to build a polluting diesel bus maintenance facility, it was given to West Grove. And now, when a massive development project is proposed for Main Highway, the negative effects will be born by West Grove.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A quick word about these Coconut Grove Condo-Retail-Restaurant-Parking Garage-Playhouse Megaplex drawings:

Before the HEP Board approved demolishing the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse on April 4th, the developers put on the typical Dog and Pony Show. During the hours-long meetings the community and HEB Board were presented with a confusing array of facts and figures, along with blue prints and artist’s renderings. These cane be found HERE. show that there will be entrances to the loading docks on Charles Avenue and William Avenue, one block to the north.

Just before the HEP voted it was revealed that all of the drawings just shown were already out of date, supplanted by another set of drawings, with different facts and figures, that no one had seen yet.

And the HEP Board still passed it. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Meanwhile, I have found newer drawings online at the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs public portal, which were posted on April 10th. Now, get this: I have been told that these drawings are already out of date. However, until I finagle the latest from one of my sources, these will have to do.

How will West Grove suffer?

The latest drawings show that Charles Avenue [A, to the right] will be the entrance for all trucks with something to pick up, or take away from the Coconut Grove Condo-Retail-Restaurant-Parking Garage-Playhouse Megaplex.

Trucks will turn in from Main Highway [B] to [F}, where an entire complex of loading docks and garbage pickup will be competing for space. The drawing does show a small bit of landscaping to try and make it disappear, but it will always be a loading dock and garbage pickup on Charles Avenue.

It’s instructive to note that putting this driveway on Charles leaves the maximum amount of space on the north side of the building for the mixed use Condo/Retail/Restaurant/Parking Lot/Theater Megacomplex. All at the expense of Charles Avenue, which has been designated a Historic Roadway, just to remind you.

Lately beer trucks serving the restaurants in The Monstrosity, aka Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums, have been pulling onto Charles Avenue and parking opposite the driveway to the E.W.F. Stirrup House [G]. From there the deliveries are loaded onto a hand cart and taken it through the parking lot of the Regions Bank on the corner, across from [F]. If the Stirrup House ever gets an occupancy permit, they’ll be able to walk it through the Stirrup property instead, saving time and energy.

Oddly enough, loading docks were not required for The Monstrosity, even though the plan was always to have restaurants on the ground floor that would require deliveries. In addition, beer trucks will never be allowed to pull up in front of The Monstrosity, because that would hinder the valet parking concession.

Once the Playhouse is redeveloped — with its 31 apartment units [D], restaurant [between D & E], gargantuan 449 slot parking garage [C], and small 300 theater [E] — it will generate a massive amount of garbage. There will have to be daily pickup, if not pickup twice a day.

The Charles Avenue Historic Marker with the
two empty residential lots in the background

Let me draw your attention to the two empty lots marked [H] on the pic above. Immediately behind the Charles Avenue Historic Marker are 3227 and 3247 Charles Avenue, which are zoned single family residential. There had once been houses on those lots; a Conch on one and a Shotgun on the other. These were demolished in order to use the double lot as a marshaling yard to build The Monstrosity a decade ago.

TO BE FAIR: This made more sense than having the construction traffic on Main Highway, but the neighbouthood still lost 2 affordable houses that have never been replaced.

I wrote about these two empty lots in Another Charles Avenue Bad Neighbour Update, after I discovered that the valet concessions were illegally using these residential lots to park dozens of cars, the overflow to an event in the Cruz Building, on Commodore Plaza.

These 2 lots are not part of the footprint of Playhouse redevelopment. Yet, everyone recognizes how they would square off the Playhouse property. However, there are too many hoops to jump through for that to ever happen. Regardless, that did not stop developer Peter Gardner, of the Pointe Group/Colliers International, from dropping a half million dollars a piece to speculate that these two lots will skyrocket in value.

FULL DISCLOSURE: When I met with Peter Gardner last year I sandbagged him. Having learned he had recently signed on as a developer of the Stirrup House, I booked a sit down interview with him. After some preliminaries on the Stirrup House, I shifted to these two Charles lots and then all the property he either owns or controls on Grand Avenue.

At dawn, looking east along Grand Avenue, from the
disgusting ghetto to the extremely rich Center Grove

Please read my ongoing series Unpacking Grand Avenue

Garner was surprised that I was able to relate the history of these two empty lots and how the people he bought them from may have broken the law to get them. He suggested that it’s possible he hadn’t performed his due diligence on the properties. I assured him that no one, least of all the banks that appear to have been snookered, cared at all.

Then he appeared shocked when I pulled out my handmade map of Grand Avenue, with all the properties identified and colour-coded by owner.

And, I know he was stunned when I told him that I would fight him tooth and nail to prevent these Charles Avenue lots from being zoned for anything other than single family. TO BE FAIR: I warned him at the top of the interview that I was an advocacy journalist. This is just one of the things I advocate about.

But, I digress. One of the latest ideas for these two lots is to turn it into some kind of car turn-a-round for all the swells going to the Playhouse. Imagine the traffic this would generate. However, this idea seems as absurd an the other rumour around: That Michael Eidson’s 2-theater plan would need these two lots to expand into for something or sundry. Both ideas seem like non-starters.

Regardless, no developer drops a million dollars on 2 lots unless he thinks there’s a payoff at the end of the day. Small single family houses on these long and narrow lots will never be able to pay for themselves. That’s why eventually Miami Planning and Zoning will be called upon to either rezone the lots to Multi-Family or Commercial use. The owner of these 2 contiguous lots would need no variance to build a monster home straddling the properties, but it would be hard to make any money doing that.

And, if Not Now Silly has learned anything in the 8 years covering Miami, it’s that developers always seem to get what they ask for. Even if it contravenes the Miami21 plan and offends the NCD2 oe NCD3 neighbourhood overlays. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Planning and Zoning.

Bottom line: There’s nothing in this massive redevelopment project for the people who live in West Grove. When all is said and done, this historic neighbourhood will be forced to deal with all the negative fallout of the project, without any of the benefits. The developers are now paying lip service to putting affordable housing in the project. There were also mutterings about hiring from within the community. However, these are promises that every developer in Miami gives to get permission to build, but never seem to deliver upon.

There will be an educational component to the theater program because that was mandated by the State of Florida. But nothing said they’ll educate children in the immediate community. The theater company, GableStage — which I have heard nothing but good things about — comes from outside the community, Coral Gables. [Please see my series No Skin In The Game; Part I; Part II; Part III] Because of the relative poverty of West Grove (due to decades of systemic racism) it’s unlikely the folks there will be able to afford the $45 tickets to any of the plays GableStage currently offers. I know I would have to budget hard for something like that.

This artist’s rendering hides the fact that behind the
Playhouse are small, 1-story Conch and Shotgun homes.

District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell needs to be more vocal and proactive about these neighbourhood concerns and how this project will negatively effect West Grove. In a recent encounter this reporter asked Russell whether he has a public stance on the Playhouse redevelopment project. He declined to give me a quote because it’s an issue he may one day find himself ruling on. However, there are some aspects of this massive redevelopment that he can comment on. Chief among them, is the increased truck and car traffic on the quiet residential streets of West Grove.

I already know what Miami-Dade and the Miami Parking Authority will say, because it’s been done before. They will claim, “We didn’t hear any complaints.” It’s unlikely they will hear complaints from the West Grove. These are people who have been ignored and marginalized for decades. After nearly a century of systemic racism, they’ve stopped complaining.

That’s why they need a champion, a Commissioner who will not ignore their travails.

This is a Miami-Dade project, not a City of Miami project. This means that Commissioner Russell has very little power to protect the historic West Grove neighbourhood from the fallout from this massive project on its doorstep. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try.

Update to “The Parking Garage Is The Thing”

This is an artists’ rendering of what that end of Charles Avenue will look like after they build this massive Garage-Condo-Restaurant-Theater-Entertainment-Plex. The building in the foreground will be known to longtime Not Now Silly readers as The Monstrosity, aka Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums. If you look carefully, you can just see the roof of the E.W.F. Stirrup House (peeking out from behind The Monstrosity, which dwarfs it), the last historic building the HEP Board voted to demolish in order save history.

This post is a follow-up to The Parking Garage is the Thing.

Something I did not mention in that post is how, after the HEP Board meeting, I introduced myself to Michael Spring, Miami-Dade’s Cultural Czar. We’ve spoken on the phone, but had never met.

Spring was the lynch-pin that brought all the competing factions together to craft a delicate plan to restore the Coconut Grove Playhouse before the deadline imposed by the State of Florida. Had the parties not been able to come to an agreement before the sunset clause, the state could have sold the land as surplus to the highest bidder. [Read: Developer.]

TO BE FAIR: Spring was busy when I approached. He and his group were basically giving each other High Fives, and trying not to appear too gleeful, after Miami’s Historic Board [HEP] signed onto the plan to demolish the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse in order to preserve history.

Knowing it was not the time for rambling conversation, I handed him my homemade business card and got to the point. After introducing myself said I’d be calling to get some specific questions answered. He replied that he would be happy to answer them. Nice finally meeting you, Same here. End of conversation.

I gave his office a call on Thursday and was told he was unavailable and would be going out of town the following day, but he would certainly get my message. I explained I was on deadline. Having already started writing the post, all I really needed was the answers to a few questions to finish it. I asked whether I could get answers to my specific questions if I sent them via email. While I was given no absolute guarantee, I was told they would try and get answers for me. Here’s the text of the email sent at noon on Thursday.

Here are the 5 Qs I have. I am asking because I heard a lot of numbers thrown around the other night and they didn’t always agree. (I know I said 4 on the phone, but thought of another.)

1). How many parking spaces are currently anticipated in the Playhouse redevelopment?
2). How many residential units in the Playhouse redevelopment?
3). Of these residential units, how many are for Playhouse staff (however that’s loosely defined) and how many are for sale?
4). How large is restaurant in the Playhouse redevelopment? Number of seating?
5). How many retail outlets? Will the entire frontage (the Main & Charles sections) be retail?

I appreciate any help you can give me in getting these answered before my (self-imposed) deadline.

I was still waiting for an answer on Saturday when I decided to ask one of my other sources, who promised to get back to me with answers. This source is always as good as their word. When, by Monday morning, I still had no answers from either Miami-Dade or my source, I finally published my post before it grew whiskers.

Consequently, I described what I knew and, most importantly, what I didn’t know in The Parking Lot is the Thing.

Late Monday afternoon my source got back to me with an apology because it took so long. Here are the answers to most of my questions. [If I ever hear back from Michael Spring’s office, we can compare these facts and figures and see how good my source really is.]

1). The parking garage has room for 460 cars.
2). There are 27 residential units in the parking garage.
3). Residences for visiting directors, writers, or actors is still up in the air, although these have been part of the plan since inception. If it happens, it’s anticipated these residences will be on the second floor of the front section of the Playhouse (the only part of the structure being saved). Of the 27 residential units, it is now anticipated that all of them will be “market value” rental properties.
4). The restaurant is 6,000 sq. ft. and will be probably be in a standalone building tucked between the parking garage and the Coconut Grove Playhouse, but could just as easily be attached to both buildings.
5). There will be 15,000 sq. ft. of retail; 10,000 of that in the facade building, the only part of being saved, with 5,000 sq. ft. in the parking garage building.

Once again I was cautioned that these numbers only represent what’s in the latest drawings, which I need to emphasize were never presented to the HEP Board on Tuesday before it voted. There will be more drawings, more plans, more numbers to come.

And, the Not Now Silly Newsroom will be there.


How West Grove loses with this development

Why the Miami Parking Authority is too powerful

The Parking Garage Is The Thing

LONG STORY SHORT: The City of Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board [HEP Board to Miami hep cats] voted 4-1 Tuesday to raze the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse in order to preserve its historic façade.

Confused yet? Not as confused as everyone was when it was revealed — but only near the very end of the meeting — that the HEP Board was merely approving the “concept only” of demolishing the historic theater, and not any of the myriad drawings, plans, and designs that were shown during the evening in order to sell the development project to the taxpayers of Miami. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

LONG STORY LONGER: I’ve seen a lot of Dog & Pony shows at Miami City Hall, but this one takes the cake.

As they always do, this one went on for several hours. First the developers (save one, which we’ll get to in a eventually) got to give several PowerPoint presentations that seemingly went on for 3 days (especially for me because this is the same Road Show that I attended at Ransom Everglades a couple of months back. It seemed to have only gotten longer since then).

One PowerPoint gave the entire history of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, from its inception as a movie theater 90 years ago, through its several renovations in the year since. Due deference was given to original designer Richard Kiehnel, of the famed Kiehnel and Elliott architectural firm, and Alfred Browning Parker, the ’50s “Miami Modernist”, who designed the live theater that was applied over Kiehnel’s Mediterranean-inspired design.

The Bright Plan

QUICK HISTORY LESSON: Before the (older) Coconut Grove was illegally annexed in 1925 by (the upstart) Miami, it ruled its own destiny.

The Movers & Shakers of Coconut Grove had big plans for paradise. To that end they hired Philadelphia architect John Irwin Bright, who came up with The Bright Plan, an ambitious redesign of downtown Coconut Grove. The new city hall (near where CocoWalk ended up) would have faced Biscayne Bay, with a large reflecting pool that ran down what became Macfarlane. This grand plan, which was never realized, was based upon Mediterranean architecture. While it didn’t come to fruition, one building from that plan was actually built. The Coconut Grove Theater opened in January of 1927 and was given a Mediterranean feel to match that of The Bright Plan. The rest is history.

The Dog & Pony Show descends into farce

We were led to believe — by those who were arguing for the theater’s ultimate demolition — that all the additions, subtractions, and renovations to Kiehnel’s original sublime movie house were, at best, architectural abominations and, at worst, an act of barbarism against humanity. [I might be exaggerating. Slightly.]

Next up on the double bill was the PowerPoint showing the current plans for the site’s footprint. We were shown drawings, elevations, blueprints, and artists’ renderings of the finished project in situ. During the presentation we were given enough facts and figures, to confuse anybody trying to pay attention. That PowerPoint lasted for at least a week. [I might be exaggerating. Slightly.]

The parking garage, that gigantic thing in the middle
of the development, dwarfs the rest of the project

However, none of that yakkity yak yak mattered in the final analysis because it was revealed right at the very end of the meeting — after all the PowerPoint presentations, after all the public input, and after all the developers had a chance for rebuttal — that:

  • 1). The drawings and the PowerPoint presentation we were just shown had already been supplanted by another — newer — set of drawings and blueprints that no one had seen yet, including the HEP Board;
  • 2). But, that didn’t even matter because the only thing being asked of the HEP Board that night was to give the developers an Up or Down vote to the “concept” of demolishing the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse, as opposed to approving the actual plans of buildings we just spent an eternity viewing. Each building, and every subsequent change, will have to come back before HEP for approval.


I actually gasped when I realized the Dog & Pony Show had become a Bait & Switch.

I had driven in from Sunrise, to spend hours in a room colder than a meat locker, in order to listen to a developer’s pitch that I’d already heard before. I was frustrated to learn that the citizens of Miami had been given, in essence, fake news.

There was nothing taxpayers could say about it at that point because PUBLIC COMMENTS were already closed. The only people who could speak to that was the HEB Board members and they seemed disinclined to inquire why everybody’s time was wasted. I quickly texted one of my super duper, secret, anonymous sources, who seemed pretty gleeful at this turn of events:

ME: No real fireworks. The plan might not be approved. There’s no motion on the table yet.
SECRET SOURCE: I’m watching this [from home] and this is nuts… they are idiots. Now they [HEP Board] get the reso.

BTW: This startling info only came out after some probing questions posed by Lynn Lewis, the only HEP Board member to eventually vote NO to this plan to raze history in order to preserve history. She was trying to get to the bottom of some questions she had in determining whether she would table a motion to reject the plan.

That’s right, folks. It was only in the minutes just before a motion was put on the table, right near the end of a very long meeting, that the HEP Board realized what was really being voted on. Even I was fooled by what I had witnessed.

Lewis finally crafted a motion that rejected the plan and called for the developers to return with more concrete plans. She didn’t get a second and the motion withered on the dais. A motion to approve the plan “in concept only” was tabled and passed 4-1.

In the end, and is always the case in Miami, the developers got exactly what they wanted and needed.

A drawing of the 5 story, 513 slot, parking garage, which is now out of date. Not Now Silly has been told it’s already been reduced in size. However, I have been unable to get the current height or the amount of parking spaces.

The Parking Garage is the thing

As I mentioned above, one developer didn’t show themselves. That’s not exactly true. What is more accurate to say is that Art Noriega, Miami Parking Authority’s CEO, never gave a presentation. This despite the fact that the massive parking garage is one of the primary drivers of a lot of the decisions that have been made along the way.

However, I saw Noriega several times during the meeting peaking out from behind the dais. At various times he was on either side of the room or the other, lurking behind all the other city swells there to service the meeting (like city lawyers and such, who could answer legal questions if they came up). I’m sure if he had been needed, Noriega might have been called upon to answer any questions that came up. However, the huge, honking, parking garage was less a bone of contention than it deserved to be.

A mere 25 months ago, after I saw the first artistic drawings that a source had leaked me, I published The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse (Part I; Part II). These articles suggest that it’s the parking garage driving the theater redevelopment and not the other way around.

Nothing I heard on Tuesday changed my mind. In fact, the project seems to have morphed from a mere 5-story parking garage into a condo and restaurant development with a parking garage and small theater attached.

TO BE FAIR: There’s no denying that parking is sorely needed in that area, something I’ve written about previously after sitting in that parking lot for hours on end counting cars. Furthermore, continued development will make that need more dire. Immediately to the north of the Playhouse footprint is a plan for a 4-story office building fronting on Main Highway, which will probably have restaurants on the ground floor. [See rendering above.] Additionally, Ransom Everglades private school, just south of the Playhouse on the east side of Main Highway, is bursting its parking lots at the seams. Then consider that all those valets in front of the restaurants along Commodore Plaza (working for tips only) are desperate for nearby places to stash cars.

Not Now Silly has published stories about all these parking issues previously.

However, what was once a parking garage development project, with its 300-seat theater afterthought, will now also have residential condos, retail shops, and a restaurant.

Because there’s now a lot of misinformation swirling after the Dog & Pony Show Bait & Switch, I have been trying to get the definitive answers to the following questions:

  1. How many floors tall is the parking garage? [I’ve already been told it’s been downsized from 5, but have been cautioned not to say “4”.]
  2. How many parking spaces will be in the parking garage? [Downsized from 513.]
  3. How many residential condos are in the current development plans? [A crazy number I heard was 30, but that was when the garage was 5 stories.]
  4. How many of those are FOR SALE? [All of them I’ve been told off the record.]
  5. How many residential units are being created for visiting directors and actors at the theater? [This may no longer be part of the plan, or they may be in the front building, the only portion being saved.]
  6. How large is the restaurant? How many seats?
  7. How many retail stores will be in the front of the building? [The only portion being saved.]

There are a lot of unanswered questions and this massive development project never should have been passed without the HEP Board having more answers.

This is the only part of the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse that will be saved. It’s the narrow, sliver of the building on either sides of entrance, that brackets the corner of Charles Avenue and Main Highway. It will have retail spaces.

A 300 seat theater? You’re joking, right?

Miami is supposed to be a World Class City. What’s World Class about a theater that’s smaller than the auditoriums of several of the local schools?

Where’s the room for growth in a 300-seat theater?

GableStage, the company that will take over programming at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, currently operates in a 150-seat theater. It has the potential to double its audience. However, where does it go from there?

A 300-seat theater is not large enough to bring in touring musicians, who might be booked for nights the theater is dark. A 300-seat theater is not large enough to be rented out of community events when the theater is dark. As mentioned, the local school auditoriums are slightly larger.

People who are arguing for this configuration tell me Miami can’t support a bigger theater. That there are already large theaters in Miami that don’t sell out.

Detractors at the meeting kept reminding the citizens that the Playhouse failed as a much larger theater. However, a number of factors could have led to the Playhouse’s demise, from bad publicity, to the wrong kind of shows, to bad scheduling.

I contend that if you put on the right shows — including musical artists on nights when the stage is dark — you’ll draw clientele.

However, if you build a 300 seat theater, you’ll never draw more than that. This is nothing but small time, small town, small thinking.

This plan shows a second theater off the main theater.

TO BE FAIR: There is a plan to build a second theater on the same footprint that has 700 seats, in addition to the 300-seat room already passed “in concept”.

However, the 700-seat theater is unfunded. Getting the $40 million to build it is considered a long shot, at best, and will probably never be built.

It’s been my contention all along that a 300 seat theater is small time, small town, small thinking.


How Will the Playhouse Redevelopment Hurt West Grove?

Why the Miami Parking Authority is too powerful

Playhouse Parking Problems Proliferate

Coconut Grove Playhouse panorama

As I told my newest BFF, Art Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority, I don’t go to Miami to find problems with his parking lots. That just seems to happen whenever I go to Coconut Grove.

As you may remember from our last exciting epsiode, EXCLUSIVE: Are Valet Companies Stealing From Miami Taxpayers?, I reported how Paradise Parking was illegally parking cars on the Playhouse Parking Lot, contrary to its agreement with the City of Miami. Paradise Parking rents 45 spaces from the Miami Parking Authority at $6.00 per space per day, but those spaces are immediately behind the Playhouse, not the main MPA parking lot to the north of the building.

Copy of Art Noriega’s letter

When I reported this skulduggery to the Miami Parking Authority, Art Noriega jumped into action and sent out this letter, which reads in part:

May 7, 2015

Dear Mr. Radrizzani:

This letter is to follow up on our conversation with Mr. Victor Rosario (Senior Manager of Operations) on Monday May 4, 2015 in regards to Paradise Parking valet staff parking vehicles outside of the designated area at the Playhouse Lot. As explained in the conversation, this conduct or practice will not be tolerated and Paradise Parking staff needs to adhere to the current policies effective immediately.

If for any reason this or any other issue occurs, the current agreement will be terminated immediately.

Art Noriega,
Chief Executive Officer

Some of the 25 spaces reserved for valet parking on June 6

Just a month later, on June 6, I parked in the Playhouse Parking lot again. Ostensibly, I was attending another Coconut Grove Drum Circle, but I couldn’t help notice that the entire middle section of the Playhouse parking lot was cordoned off with caution tape and reserved for valet parking.

Because this seemed contrary to my understanding of the parking lot rules and the letter of understanding, I spoke to the security guard on duty, who knew he was talking to a reporter. Lionel Pichel, of Security Alliance, told me that the spaces had been rented for use by valets for MAC Parking, a Florida company with headquarters in North Miami. It was his understanding the spaces were reserved for a private party at a private residence on the east side of Main Highway. However, that’s as far as his information went.

An interesting thing happened while I was standing there talking to him. Twice valets from Paradise Parking, who confirmed to me later they were working an event at the Cruz Building on Commodore Plaza, pulled in wanting to use the spaces reserved for MAC Parking. Pichel told them the spaces were reserved for someone else and they drove off, to park behind the Playhouse. I’m not sure if an attempt to park where they’re not allowed would vitiate the contract with the Miami Parking Authority, but “If for any reason this or any other issue occurs, the current agreement will be terminated immediately” seems pretty all-encompassing. Pichel told me that the valets always try to park in the
main lot and they always have to be chased away. He said he was glad I had already confirmed the rules to him.

These spaces were empty all night long.

Shrugging my shoulders, I went off on my merry way, first to dinner and then to the drum circle, which is right across the street from the Playhouse parking lot. Before hitting the drum circle, I returned to the parking lot to get my stuff out of my trunk. I couldn’t help but notice that every space reserved for valet parking was still empty.

I talked to Mr. Pichel again. He was surprised the valets hadn’t arrived yet and told me that I should be seeing guys with white shirts running around soon. However, all night long I kept popping back over to see whether anyone had parked in these spaces reserved for MAC Parking. Eventually all the other spaces in the lot were occupied and, just like in May, customers would pull into the lot, find no available spaces, and leave again. Yet, the center core of the parking lot, 25 spaces in all, remained empty.

I didn’t stay overnight, but when I left at 11 PM these spaces were still unoccupied. Subsequent research informs me they were empty all night.

The MPA confirmed that MAC Parking rented 25 parking spaces, at $10 per. However, that was THE PREVIOUS WEEKEND, not on June 6th. That means there was an internal communications SNAFU that cost the city of Miami an untold number of dollars on Saturday night. Because it was FAM Night in the Grove, every one of those 25 spaces would have been filled. Furthermore, who knows how many times each would have been turned over during the course of the night?

I’m told that the MPA people who messed up will be dealt with. However, as a result of my initial inquiries, the MPA said it will no longer rent spaces for valet parking in the main Playhouse parking lot after the end of June.

However, that’s only one problem solved. I filed a Freedom of Information request to learn the name of MAC Parking’s client, the person (or company) who had the juice to reserve public facilities for a private function. However, I have been told that the MPA has no way to compel MAC Parking to reveal the name of its client as it is a private company not subject to Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

I have suggested that this is a serious gap in the information the MPA collects on behalf of the public it serves. It’s more important to know who is using taxpayer facilities than who contracted for said facilities. The argument I made was, “What if my name is Al Capone and I hired a valet company to park the cars of all my mobster friends? Should I be able to hide behind a 3rd party private contractor?” In essence, I was told, yes. As long as the parking spaces are being used for lawful purposes, the city has no interest in who contracted MAC Parking to use public facilities. I told the MPA that we’ll have to agree to disagree, while I investigate that aspect of the FOIA act a bit further, because that just don’t sound right to me.

Meanwhile, there is still the issue of valet parking traffic on Charles Avenue, which was one of those 11 questions I asked of [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, on December 19th of last year. Sarnoff refused to answer my two attempts to get a reply, punting to the Miami Parking Authority instead, even though some of those questions were outside of the MPA’s bailiwick. Here’s a question [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff never answered:

2). When neighbours complained previously that the 45 valet parking spots rented from the MPA would bring additional traffic, they were assured there would be no additional traffic on Charles Avenue as a result. This is clearly false. Why has this been allowed to continue for the past year despite occasional complaints by the neighbours?

Read: The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse; Part II for the full list of questions that [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff refused to answer on behalf of his constituents. Then join ABT – Anybody But Teresa, the facebook page that openly scoffs at the notion that [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff is trying to get his wife annoited in his seat after he’s been term-limited out on his ass.

On Saturday night I happened to run into a resident from Charles Avenue, someone with whom I’ve spoken to previously about the parking fiasco. When I explained that the Paradise Parking valets are now forced to go in and out using Charles Avenue, they reminded me the City of Miami promised that that wouldn’t happen. I reminded them that I was told by the city that the residents should be happy that it’s less traffic than when the Playhouse was open, which is hardly the point.

I have a fix for this problem if the MPA is willing to listen, and from what I know of Art Noriega, he will. Whether he acts upon it is another story, but it would solve several problems. If I were the Parking Czar, here’s what I’d do:

1). Allow the parking valets in and out privileges on Lot 6, the main Playhouse Parking Lot, as long as they don’t park there;
2). Where I’ve drawn a yellow line is a white arrow painted on the ground. Paint over it;
3). At the yellow line place a sign that says Valet Parking Only, just like the sign currently on Charles Avenue, and allow the valets to use this for parking cars;
4). Where I’ve drawn a red line is a gate to Charles Avenue where the Valet Parking Only sign is. It used to be closed and locked before the MPA rented the space to Paradise Parking. It should be closed and locked again.


 The valet traffic on Charles Avenue is reduced drastically. Both the valets at the Cruz Building and the restaurants on the ground floor of the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums can use the Main Highway entrance and exit..

Then, if not for the valets racing in and out of the Regions Bank parking lot, there would be no valet traffic on Charles Avenue at all. However, Aries Development has contracted with Regions Bank to use this parking lot when the bank is closed, regardless of how dangerous it is to have valets zipping in and out where families walk.

Is Aries Development Coconut Grove’s Biggest Scofflaw?

Aries Development is [allegedly] breaking the law again and, if something isn’t done, somebody’s going to get hurt, probably children. 

Not Now Silly has written about The Bicycle Shop many times in the past year. The condemned structure was deeded to Aries Development, which I have also written about extensively, calling its owner Gino Falsetto the worst neighbour in Coconut Grove.

The Bicycle Shop — and $15,000 — was given to Aries by Miami-Dade County in order to get it to relinquish all claims on The Coconut Grove Playhouse. Until then Aries [under the companies Paradise Parking, Double Park, and Carbbean Parking] had been squatting on the Coconut Grove Parking lot and pocketing the parking revenue. Aries had also scuttled several previous deals to reopen the Playhouse because it claimed the previous deals did not adequately compensate it for its loan to the Playhouse board before it went bankrupt. As long as they were collecting the parking fees, there was little incentive to get off that gravy train. However, Miami-Dade finally shook Aries loose last year.

The first thing Aries did when finally getting its grubby corporate mitts on The Bicycle Shop was rip off the roof. This was done without benefit of a building permit, which is how Aries seems to do everything: without any of the necessary permits, and without city or county oversight. Because ripping off the roof created such an unstable structure, metal bracing had to be installed inside to keep the walls from blowing out. Now those steel trusses are the only thing holding the building together.

During the destruction period, and for a while afterwards, this construction/destruction zone was totally open to the public. The gate on the fence was not locked. Children were playing inside. I contacted the city of Miami several times to complain of an unsafe work site. Eventually, the gate was locked.

Now that gate is unlocked again. 

Saturday Night was FAM Night in Coconut Grove. Because I’m a proud participant of the Coconut Grove Drum Circle, I parked in the Playhouse Parking lot, which is right across the street from where we bang a gong.

When I arrived at the Playhouse parking lot I was shocked — SHOCKED, I TELLS YA! — that the gate to The Bicycle Shop was open again and two young women were inside taking pictures. So I went inside and took pictures of them.

Later, when I went back to my car to get something, there were children (aged 10-12, I’d estimate) running around inside the Bicycle Shop in the dark. There is nothing more attractive to a kid than an unsecured construction site. There is nothing more dangerous than a child running around a construction site in the dark.

I have already called the Coconut Grove NET office to report this unsafe construction zone. I made it clear that I was calling as a reporter and they assured me that a By-Law Inspector would be calling me back. However, I’m still waiting for those callbacks from when I reported this very same unsafe work site more than a year ago. That’s why I hold out no hope I will be called back.

Please keep in mind that Aries Development has not only further blighted the already condemned Bicycle Shop, but controls the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House, which has been designated historic by the city. It has been undergoing Demolition by Neglect ever since Aries acquired a 50-year lease on this important cultural treasure of Black Grove, where the City of Miami actually began. To learn why this is far more egregious than destroying the Bicycle Shop, please read Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past.

Meanwhile, this is just more proof, if any were needed, that Aries Development doesn’t care about the residents of Coconut Grove unless they are living in The Monstrosity, aka Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums, which it built behind the Stirrup House. I wonder if it had all the proper permits for that.

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?

The Latest Play on the Coconut Grove Playhouse

Click to enlarge

One of my sources sent me the following document. This appears to be the memorandum that will be voted upon during the Miami-Dade Commission meeting on Thursday, March 12, 2015.

* Memorandum from Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez

DATE: March 9, 2015

TO: Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez
CC: Mimai-Dade County Board of County Commissioners
FROM: Xavier L. Suarez, Commissioner, District 7

RE: Coconut Grove Playhouse Proposed MOU

Below please see a proposed set of parameters in the form of a memorandum of Understanding (MOU). I believe it reflects the best elements of what you and I have discussed over the last few months as the “two-theater solution.”

I would appreciate hearing back from you directly with your feedback before the Thursday hearing wehich I have scheduled as Chairman of the Exonomic Prosperity Committee. I have mentioned to Chief of Staff Alex Ferro that I am available at your conveience.

Memorandum of Understanfing
Click to enlarge

WHEREAS, it is the will of the Mayor and Commission of Miami-Dade County that the Coconut Grove Playhouse should be restored to its historic glory and configuration; and

WHEREAS, the objective of historic preservation calls for a restoration that will, as close as possible, maintain the façade, configuration, and size of the Coconut Grove Playhouse; and
WHEREAS there is an opportunity to build two theaters, one in approzimate size of 300 seats and one in the approximate size of 750 seats, upon a site plan as per the attached sketch (to be sent under separate cover); and
WHEREAS, the funding necessary to build two such theaters requires that operating and management agreements be in place with those who will manage each one, as well as a master agreement with an entity that fuses the powers of government and the private-sector donors who will fund the approximately two-thirds of the total budget needed to build the two theaters.
Click to enlarge

NOW THEREFORE the parties agree as follows:

  1. The preliminary layout attached hereto is approved in principle.
  2. A new entity will be formed that includes majority representation from appointees of Miami-Dade County and Florida International University, and minority representation from the private-sector donors and artistic consultants. That entity will act as the landlord and will be governed by the Sunshine Law as well as competitive bidding rules for public entities in Florida.
  3. Long-term operating agreements will be entered into with separate theater groups to operate the large theater and the small theater which will assure common use of facilities, parking and compatible schedules. In case of a legal dispute that is not amicably resolved, the two companies agree that the “landlord” is the sole and final arbiter of any legal disputes, with no recourse whatsoever to appeal decisions. (It is understood that each theater group will have unfettered discretion on artistic matters.)
  4. The small theater will have GableStage, Inc. or its assugnee as the operator; it will have a built-in educational component, as agreed to by all the parties in its particulars.
  5. The large theater will have a newly formed non-profit entity or foundation as its operator, and will have Kevin Spacey as its artistic consultant, with compensation initially to be paid to him by private contributors. It is understood that Mike Eidson, as founder of the Coconut Grove Fpundation, Inc., will select its first board of directors, its initial members and will formulate its internal operating agreement.
  6. Design costs of both theaters will be borne by the County from its G.O.B. funds until the end of the design phase, presently anticopated to end in about 18 months.
  7. In the event that private funds are not obtained in sufficient amount to complement the county’s $20 million and reach a figure sufficient to build both theaters, this MOU will be revised to account for that contingency in a way that is satisfacory to Miami-Dade County and Florida International University. In that eventuality, it is understood that no private entities will have vested rights to the mentioned operating agreements for either the large or small theaters; and no reliance should be placed by either theater group on the assurance that the long-term operating agreements will be continued as envisioned here. In other words, this is a condition presedent to the rest of the MOU.
  8. The continuance of the long-term operating agreements, as envisioned here, will be subject to a condition subsequent,t [sic] which is that they will each have performance criteria, as determined jointly by Miami-Dade County and Florida International University.
  9. All other agreements in existence, including those with the Miami Parking Authority and the City of Miami, remain in effect as long as they are consistent with this MOU.
Xavier L. Suarez
Miami-Dade County Commissioner
District 7

There still seem to be a lot of holes in this agreement. The biggest of which is where the extra $40 million (and that’s a conservative estimate) coming from to build the 2 theaters, retail, parking garage, and apartments. Who is going to cough up the funds to build a world class theater in Coconut Grove?

Who will be the “private contributors” who will have “minority representation” on this Board of Directors? Not Now Silly has discovered that those with the money call the shots, regardless of minority representation.

The big fear that some people have is that the fundraising to build the theater could delay the project to the point the State of Florida gets tired of waiting. Florida could then sell the land to the highest bidder and the corner of Main Highway and Charles Avenue could become a MASSIVE development that would put Cocowalk and Mayfair to shame.

* I was forced to remove the original PDF because it was messing with stuff under the hood of the Not Now Silly Newsroom. H/t to SAVE THE COCONUT GROVE PLAYHOUSE for the doc pics.

A Playhouse Trojan Horse Update

These are the arrows in Question 3. I’m not sure
why they were blocked off this way yesterday.

Last week I received a call from the executive assistant of Art Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority. Because it began with a fulsome apology for not answering my email [See: The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse; Part II], I was willing to listen. 

Mr. Noriega wanted to have a meeting at my convenience to discuss my email. I suggested Wednesday [yesterday] and, instead of meeting at his office, we meet at the Playhouse Parking lot. He was more than willing. In the exchange of emails confirming our meeting, I made one last demand: that he still answer my email. That way we could have a conversation, as opposed to a grilling, and get to better understand each other and the issues. He was more than willing to do that, as well.

Here is Mr. Noriega’s replies to the questions that applied to the Miami Parking Authority, followed by those [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff has refused to answer:

Feb 17

In anticipation of our meeting tomorrow, here is our response to your original e-mail. Really looking forward to a lively discussion.

[…] 2). When neighbours complained previously that the 45 valet parking spots rented from the MPA would bring additional traffic, they were assured there would be no additional traffic on Charles Avenue as a result. This is clearly false. Why has this been allowed to continue for the past year despite occasional complaints by the neighbours?

The MPA was not made aware of any complaints. The valet has been operating for quite some time. If there were complaints, they haven’t come to us.

3). If there was to be no additional traffic on Charles Avenue then why did the MPA, when it resurfaced the Main Street parking lot, paint a giant arrow on the ground immediately BEHIND the Playhouse directing cars to exit onto Charles Avenue?

The arrows were placed to add clarity to the ingress and egress of traffic through that area.  The traffic, to our understanding, always flowed that way even before MPA took over the management.

4). Some of these 45 spots rented from the MPA are now being used several days a week as a drive-in movie theater. How is this being done?

MPA entered into an agreement with Miami Dade County to allow this drive-in theater to operate in that section of the lot, Mon-Thurs Nights. Is there a sub-lease? Yes A contract? Yes A gentleman’s agreement? Is the MPA involved? Yes

5). What permits were needed to run a drive-in theater in that parking lot?

Blue Star Lite is the company running the drive-in theater and they pulled all the necessary permits from the city of Miami.  What are the insurance requirements and who is paying for it? The insurance requirements are detailed in the contract and is paid for by Blue Star Lite and are approved by the city of Miami risk management department.

6). When these 45 spaces are full of cars and/or drive-in movie patrons, where does the overflow parking go now that the gate on the residential lot has been locked again? [It’s been locked and unlocked as needed for overflow parking until now.]

Overflow is directed to the front portion of the lot located adjacent to Main Highway.

7). At the far west end of the MPA parking lot on Main Highway there is a chain-link fence with a double-gate that feeds onto William Avenue. Why is this gate locked most daylight hours, but quietly unlocked and left wide open on busy nights in Coconut Grove, when the Playhouse parking lot is full?

The gate should be closed at all times.  We have addressed with our security to ensure this is indeed the case.  It should not be open at any time.

8). What will the City of Miami do about monitoring these valet parking infractions going forward?

MPA monitors all valet companies working on the public right of way. Any  Valet companies working in or on private property are monitored by the city of Miami code enforcement division.

9). What will the City of Miami do to reduce all the added traffic these parking lots have caused on Charles and William Avenues?

This question needs to be addressed by City of Miami transportation division. The traffic flow there now is much lower than it was when the Playhouse was operational.



Art Noriega
Chief Executive Officer
Miami Parking Authority

Just to remind readers, here are the questions [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff has refused to answer, merely replying that the resident who complained had her complaint satistfied in 2 business days. 

 1). Why did Charles Avenue resident Cynthia Hernandez have to insist that the police do something after they first tried to tell her that there was nothing they could do since the property owner hadn’t made a complaint?

[To their credit, but only after additional phone calls, the police finally ordered the residential lot to be emptied of cars; a process, I am told, that took 45 minutes and created the 2nd traffic jam of the night on Charles Avenue. The first was filling the empty lot with some 40-50 cars in the first place.]

[…] 10). Considering Gino Falsetto is one of the owners of Aries; and considering he also has financial interests in the empty residential lot being used for the last year as overflow parking to the 45 spaces rented from the MPA; and considering he is also part owner of Paradise Parking; and considering it’s his 3 restaurants that use the valet parking; and considering that his brother Andrew Falsetto is a part of South Park, the company that took the fall for Friday night’s parking fiasco; isn’t all this circular finger-pointing just a little too convenient for everyone to duck responsibility by blaming this ongoing situation as a one-time event?

The E.W.F. Stirrup House on February 18, 2015
after nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect.

11). And, most important of all: Considering all I have uncovered and written about Gino Falsetto’s shenanigans — his Demolition by Neglect of the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House; the destruction of the old trees on that property without the proper plans and permits; the interior demolition of the E.W.F. Stirrup House without permit or historic plan on file; the destruction of the wall that separated La Bottega from the current construction zone of the E.W.F. Stirrup lot without the proper permits; the removing the roof of the Bicycle Shop without a demolition permit; his alleged squatting on the Playhouse parking lot for several years; etc., so forth, and so on — isn’t it time that Falsetto, and the series of companies he hides behind, are held responsible for the downgrading of the quality of life of your West Grove constituents who live around his fiefdom?

The residents on Charles Avenue may be gratified to learn that Art Noriega suggests they call Miami Code Enforcement for any further valet parking shenanigans and they’ll take care of it, especially now that he’s on the case.

The Charles Avenue Historic Marker is right across
the street from the E.W.F. Stirrup House and immediate
behind the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Any restoration that
doesn’t pay attention to this rich history is an insult to the
Black folk that have lived in the West Grove for generations.

I didn’t bother to ask Noriega any questions about the Blue Star-Lite Drive-In because it will be kicked to the curb, literally, when — and if —  the Coconut Grove Playhouse becomes a construction zone. However, Norienga did mention, in an off-hand way, that all the valet parking companies sharing these lots will be in trouble when — and if — the Coconut Grove Playhouse becomes a construction zone.

My sense of Art Noriega is that he’s a nice guy with a difficult job. He has to balance Miami’s need for more and more parking spaces with a sensitivity to neighbourhoods, traffic patterns, and culture. I did my usual sales job on him about the rich cultural history of West Grove. I think I impressed him with my sincerity. More to the point: I hope I made him understand that what was being ignored in all this talk of a revival for the Coconut Grove Playhouse is the neighbourhood immediately behind it.

Noriega seemed genuinely pained when he spoke of the Coconut Grove Playhouse being dark for all these years. The way he described it, back in the day, made it sound as if The Playhouse was the stable cultural center of a swirling art scene that encompassed the entire Grove. He contends its shuttering created a black hole for businesses throughout that entire south end of downtown Coconut Grove, from which Commodore Plaza is only just recovering.

Noriega also said that any talk of how many parking spaces will be needed [200-300 is what I’ve heard] on the Playhouse footprint is premature. They still don’t know how much of the building can be saved, if any, how big the theater will be, and whether there will be one theater or two, as a recently floated plan suggests.

He seems genuinely concerned to see that forward progress continues on the Playhouse Renovation/Revival. His biggest fear seems to be that the State of Florida (which owns the land) gets tired of waiting for something to happen and sells the land, as it has always had the power to do once the Playhouse board went bankrupt.

It’s been a year since Miami-Dade Cultural Czar Michael Spring cut all the deals that allowed the Playhouse Renovation to go ahead. Since then, and only recently, Arquitectonica was chosen to oversee the project. How long will Florida wait for plans to arrive on a builder’s drawing board is anybody’s guess, but it certainly won’t be forever.

Raking Muck in the Big Miami ► Unpacking The Writer

An app that allows me to pretend
I’m being sketched on the beach.

Hold on, dear readers! It’s that time of the month when I pull back the curtain like Toto did to the Wizard of Oz and reveal a bit more of myself. AUNTY EM!!! AUNTY EM!!!

But first, A NOT NOW SILLY NEWSROOM ALERT: Further to The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse, my 2-part investigative report from last week: While [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff has yet to answer any of my 11 questions, I did get an apology from the Miami Parking Authority and a confirmed time and date for a meeting with CEO Art Noriega. Hopefully I can answer some of the Charles Street neighbours’ questions afterwards.

Right after The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse was published Friends of Merrie Christmas Park reminded me of When Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff Lied To My Face. So I wrote up that exciting episode as well and posted it here a few days later. It’s all part of my relentless campaign to elect ABT – Anybody But Teresa in Miami’s upcoming District 2 election. Maybe I should start a PAC and then buy some radio adverts. But, since I can’t afford that, why not join my facebookery of the same name? Trust me, you’ve done worse things in your life.

Nine years ago, when I moved from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, back to ‘Merka, the land of my birth, the last thing I figured I’d be doing is getting involved in ‘Merkin politics. I lived in Canada for 35 years — more than twice as long as I lived in the States — taking out Canadian citizenship in the process. To become a citizen of Canada I had to swear an oath to Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and assigns. In that oath I swore that I would not serve in the armed forces of another country, nor would I vote in their elections. While it’s an oath I take seriously, once I got down here in Florida I was inexorably drawn into ‘Merkin politics. 
My political foray began as Aunty Em Ericann, my alter ego when I was writing for NewsHounds, the motto of which is “We watch Fox so you don’t have to.” I looked at Aunty Em as performance art, which I carried on for years. Being Aunty Em freed up my writing style considerably. She threw out a lot of the rules of writing and started inventing her own words and lexicon, a tradition I continue here and on the facebookery.

I wrote so many columns for NewsHounds that sometimes, when I’m researching the Friday Fox Follies for PoliticusUSA, I trip over an article of mine that I don’t even remember writing. However, they always make me laugh, which is my primary purpose in life: making myself laugh. If I can make myself laugh with my own writing, then maybe you will too. The supreme compliment, as far as I’m concerned, is “That was funny.”

I still think one of my funniest columns for NewsHounds is retold in The Day I Shook Hands With Glenn Beck ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be. Your mileage may vary.

The E.W.F. Stirrup House continues to rot away in
the hands of a rapacious developer. This is what
nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect looks like.
As my longtime readers know — but I pick up Newbies alla time — my ongoing project has been my 5-years-and-counting source of fascination, the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House in Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida. Every story I’ve written about Coconut Grove has been a direct outgrowth of my continued research of Ebeneezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, his place in the late 1880s, and how he created a place that was, at one time, unique in this country.

I’ve written so much about him that I won’t repeat any of it today, but take a gander at Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past to see why it’s important to save his legacy, Then read Shocker!!! E.W.F. Stirrup House Plans Are Finally On File to see how badly this house, so important to the history of Coconut Grove, has been mismanaged.

Not Now Silly explores the historic Coconut Grove Colour Line:
Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins; Part I; Part II; Part III

As usual, I digress. I was talking about Miami politics. There was a time — and not all that long ago — I couldn’t have told you where District 2 was. Now I have people calling me up to test the waters for a run as Commissioner in District 2. Whether I really want to be involved in the District 2 race, I’m still being inexorably drawn in. So far I have only thrown my weight behind Anybody But Teresa. If, at any time, I come out in favour of a candidate, you’ll be the first to know.

Lately, I’ve also been getting more tips from sources who wish to remain anonymous. It takes a long time to nurture a secret source. So many people have been burned by journalists before. Occasionally, before my sources share their tip, they tell me how they’ve been burned. However, my sources trust that OFF THE RECORD truly means OFF THE RECORD. That’s how I get people to talk.

It takes time to chase down these tips and not all of them pan out. F’rinstance, The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse, took a year’s worth of research, some of which included just sitting in parking lots observing for hours on end. At the time I didn’t even know I’d be writing an article about parking. Someone who read that story alerted me to an even bigger story of potential skulduggery and malfeasance. If true, this is EXPLOSIVE!!! This source has been solid on every tip so far, but getting to the truth of this one could be difficult. First I need to know which sewer to start dredging. As they say on the Tee Vee Tubery, STAY TUNED.
Not Now Silly set a new, all time record for readers in January, 2015.
NOT NOW SILLY HOUSEKEEPING: I know, I know, I know . . . I keep promising a new, improved Not Now Silly Newsroom, but what can I tell you at this point? I’m keeping up my end of the bargain by posting stories that my readers want to CLICK on. I no longer know what’s holding things up on the end of my Web Master.

To think this started as a casual conversation in July that began, “How can I monetize my web site?” That’s when the suggestion was made that I’d have to jump onto a WordPress template for that to happen and, while you’re at it, you may as well buy your own domain name. I replied, as I have to others who said the same thing, “But, I don’t want to lose everything that’s been posted up to now at the Not Now Silly Newsroom.” He’s the first guy to say, “You don’t have to,” so he began the process of moving everything to the new platform and template, which I love and approved months ago. Now I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And waiting patiently, I might add.

If you have any suggestions for me in that area, I’d love to hear it. 

Lastly, Pops celebrated his 89th birthday on Valentine’s Day. He’s the reason I came to Florida. After the death of my mother almost 10 years ago he asked me if I would come down and help him. He didn’t really need taking care of. He still golfed almost every day and was totally capable of taking care of himself. However, he had no idea of the magic created in the kitchen. He couldn’t even fry an egg, let along make himself dinners.

However, every year there is less and less he can do for himself. He’s no longer driving long distances, sticking to just local runs. He stopped golfing, but still meets the boys out on the course every morning. He walks with a cane, but most of the time he’s only using it for balance, swinging it parallel to the ground. That’s why it’s dangerous to walk in front of him or behind him. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been poked already.

So there it is, the life of a writer for another month. Tune in sometime during March for another exciting episode of Unpacking the Writer, from the real files of the Not Now Silly Newsroom. In the meantime, we rejoin the regular Not Now Silly Newsfeed, already in progress.