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~Approval is first step for Florida International University to lease Coconut Grove Playhouse~

MIAMI – Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet today approved Florida International University's business plan, the first step to enable the university -- in partnership with Miami-Dade County and GableStage -- to offer a world-class theater program in Southeast Florida at the state-owned Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Governor Scott said, "The approval of this business plan allows Florida International University to create a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity in Southeast Florida.”

"By approving the business plan for the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the foundation for a long-term partnership with FIU, Miami-Dade County, and the State will be solidified," stated Attorney General Pam Bondi.

"I am hopeful that the partnership between FIU, the County and GableStage will allow the Grove Playhouse to once again become a premier centerpiece for the arts in South Florida,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “By supporting the arts, we are helping promote a vibrant and creative future for our state.” 

The Coconut Grove Playhouse property was originally purchased by the state in 1980 and the Board of Trustees conveyed the property – at no cost – to the Coconut Grove Playhouse, LLC, with a deed restriction that required it to manage the property as a theater. The company struggled to continue offering theatrical productions and in April 2006, the final performance occurred in the facility and it closed amid financial problems. After years of inability to revitalize the facility, failure to keep it running as a theater and allowing a commercial parking venture, the Department, in 2012, exercised its right to revert the property back to the Board of Trustees.

The Division of State Lands noticed the property, as it does with all property it sells, and Florida International University showed interest in leasing, which universities and colleges have first preference to do upon notice. Per Florida Statutes, a lessee must provide a business plan that requires Governor and Cabinet approval. Miami-Dade County has secured $20 million for capital expenditures for the development and construction of the Playhouse. GableStage, a non-profit theater group, will partner on managing the property.

After approval, the next step will be to finalize the lease between the Board of Trustees, the university and the county. Also, the county, with concurrence of the university, will be working with the Department in pursuing options to obtain the Playhouse property in fee simple ownership, including a potential exchange of lands.  All sales or land exchanges relating to this property are subject to Board of Trustees’ approval.

"This plan shows the benefits of a partnership between the state, the county and the university working together to benefit our youth and contribute to the arts community in Miami-Dade County," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "I'm proud that DEP can support Gov. Scott as he continues to emphasize education in our state."

According to the business plan, the university plans to use the Coconut Grove Playhouse to re-establish a robust theater program for the region, providing professional theater opportunities for university students and faculty. Proper training of theater students can provide job opportunities, keep theater professionals in Miami to improve the culture of the city and serve as an incubator for new theatrical works, providing a platform for playwrights to develop their work.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the State and Florida International University on the Coconut Grove Playhouse project,” said Michael Spring, Director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs. ”In collaboration with GableStage, one of Florida’s great theater companies, we intend to re-establish great regional theater and develop innovative programs that not only will benefit FIU’s students, faculty and alumni but also will serve as a catalyst for jobs, economic development and the growth of theater throughout South Florida.”