The Coconut Grove Playhouse was a theatre in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami, Florida, United States. The building was originally constructed as a movie theater called the Player’s State Theater. It opened on January 3, 1927, as a part of the Paramount chain. The movie house was designed by the architect Richard Kiehnel of Kiehnel and Elliott. It was built by local realtors Irving J. Thomas and Fin L. Pierce. Albert Peacock was the contractor. (AM Holt)
A few months after offering an 11th-hour pact with creditors as triumphant proof they’d saved the Coconut Grove Playhouse from the auction block, Miami-Dade County officials are adding a big asterisk to previous statements.
In a fitting third act to what has been a dramatic effort to regain public control of the historic Miami theater, the future of the space now seems headed to litigation.
The clarification by county officials Friday came two weeks after Strategic Properties Group, which has a claim against the theater, was granted a sheriff’s levy against the property at 3500 Main Highway.
Strategic Properties, a real estate company led by developer Henry Pino, received a document from Miami-Dade police May 12 giving it the right to garnish the real estate to satisfy a 2013 judgment. It found the nonprofit group formerly in charge of the theater owed Pino and his company more than $549,000.
In a statement Friday, a county official, who in January said all outstanding creditors had been satisfied, explained his original statements did not apply to Strategic Properties’ claim. Because Pino’s company received the judgment after the state took over the theater late last year, the county didn’t deal with it during final settlement efforts.
Michael Spring, director of the county Department of Cultural Affairs, told the Daily Business Review that Pino was offered a $275,000 settlement in 2012 and accepted.
However, Spring said, “Ultimately none of the proposals outlined at that time to resolve encumbrances occurred due to the inability to resolve issues” with another creditor, Aries Development Corp. “Ultimately, the state exercised its reverter rights” to take control of the property.
Pino said the county previously told him the same thing: basically the state takeover of the property effectively wiped out his debt, and the county wouldn’t honor its original settlement offer. The county settled with most other creditors who filed judgments before the state intervention.
“At the end of the day, what’s right is right,” Pino told the DBR. “They know they owe me the money. They always knew that I existed and have chosen to ignore the issue. The big point here is that the mayor stood in front of the commission in January and basically said he’d settled with everyone that was owed money when in essence that’s not true.”
Pino said his lawyer advised him that “if there’s no settlement in four weeks, I can put [the Playhouse] up for sale or I can take it. I don’t want to take it, so it’s going to be very interesting.”
The county said its lawyers are reviewing the issue.
Spring emphasized that in spite of the latest developments, “we are moving forward with our plans for the Playhouse.”
In partnership with Florida International University, the county plans to rehabilitate the space and revive the once-vibrant venue.
The state, which is leasing the theater to FIU and the county, said Friday that in spite of the sheriff’s levy, the county is “still in compliance with the lease.”
In an email message, a spokeswoman for the state Bureau of Public Land Administration said it was keeping an eye on the situation and added, “The county is looking into the issue and are to get back with us.”