The historic designation of the property
Q: Is the property designated historic? And if so, what makes it historic?
A: The Coconut Grove Playhouse was designated historic by the City of Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board in 2005 via Resolution HEPB-2005-60. It is important to note that the designation report outlines the front façade as the feature with the extant architectural significance. The designation report is available at: http://www.historicpreservationmiami.com/pdfs/Coconut%20Grove%20Playhouse%20-%20FINAL%20-%2005-27-05.pdf
The history of the site and the new theater
Q: How will the history of the site be preserved and/or incorporated into the new theater?
A: The entire historic front building, the iconic view that has been the Southern threshold to the Coconut Grove commercial area on Main Highway, will be restored, including the reconstruction of the 1927 Kiehnel and Elliott design of the parapet at the corner entry, the restoration of the street level storefronts along Main Highway and Charles Avenue, and the return of the building’s original sienna color. The remaining original Kiehnel and Elliott elements in the auditorium, which include the solomonic columns, fountains, the proscenium arch, decorative grates and cornice will be saved and incorporated into the design of the new theater.
The façade of the new theater
Q: Why doesn’t the façade of the new theater look more historic?
A: Historic preservation principles encourage the clear distinction between the historic portion of a project and new construction. The proposed façade for the new theater building takes its cue from the coral rock walls and the lush tree canopies that are distinctive features of Coconut Grove. The naturalistic and low-profile design of the exterior of new theater serves as a non-competing backdrop for the historic building and is in keeping with the unique, sub-tropical character of Coconut Grove. The buildings will tell a story with their materials and style; that story celebrates and honors the past while also articulating the excitement of the future.
The status of the application for the National Register of Historic Places
Q: What is the status of the application for placing the Coconut Grove Playhouse on the National Register of Historic Places?
A: On October 19, 2018, the National Park Service accepted the nomination for the Coconut Grove Playhouse and listed the property in the National Register of Historic Places. In announcing the listing, the State of Florida Division of Historical Resources stated, “the property is listed in the Register under Criterion A: Entertainment/Recreation, period of significance 1955-1970, at the local level of significance for its role as a live theater in Miami under George Engle and Zev Buffman; and under Criterion C: Architecture, period of significance 1927, at the local level, for its Mediterranean Revival exterior.” (emphasis added) Miami-Dade County supports the State’s initiative to place the Coconut Grove Playhouse on the National Register of Historic Places. The County, through its Office of Historic Preservation and its design team’s historic preservation architect Jorge Hernandez, provided constructive suggestions after reviewing the State’s draft application. You can see the County’s input here and the approved application here. It is important to note that the City of Miami’s approved Designation Report for the Playhouse is the document with regulatory authority and that the National Register listing, while prestigious, is honorary as opposed to having any governing jurisdiction for the property.