By Bobeth Yates

COCONUT GROVE (CBSMiami) – The back and forth on how the renovate the almost century-old Coconut Grove Playhouse continues.

“In New York we had on and off Broadway and they would kill to come to the Coconut Grove Playhouse they loved it. They love the Grove,” said longtime Coconut Grove resident and former set designer Gloriana Calhoun.

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Calhoun added the Coconut Grove Playhouse was a highly sought after venue, where renowned productions would test their plays on the audience prior to starting on Broadway.

But, about 15 years ago, the historic Playhouse closed. Since then, efforts have been underway to restore the almost century-old building.

“Our goal is to continue to respect the history of the Coconut Grove Playhouse and to return outstanding theater to this place for cultivating the arts,” said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava during a Playhouse Project update.

In addition to the mayor, Commissioner Raquel Regalado and other stakeholders in the project came together to discuss the renovation.

The current proposal on the table would demolish a portion of the historic thousand-seat theater and replace it with a smaller 300-seat theater along with a plaza and parking garage.

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“The entirety of the historic front building that we are restoring to its 1927 design and by doing that we have the opportunity of creating pop up restaurants and retail spaces and lastly what this campus concept affords us is the ability to create outdoor spaces that invite the neighborhood in, something that the current site doesn’t have,” said Alejandro Gonzalez of Arquitectonica, the firm responsible for the projects design.

But many in the community aren’t happy with the proposal.

“By demolishing the historic theater and replacing it with a tiny auditorium surrounded by retail commercial space, the typology of the building will forever be changed and the spirit of the Grove will die,” said professor of architecture and historic preservation expert Melissa Meyer.

Meyer added the new design would also cause the Playhouse to lose its historic designation and turn Charles Avenue, which is also historically designated for being oldest street in South Florida founded by the first Black setters in the area, into a service road.

“That is just despicable and an insult to the Bahamian settlers who founded Coconut Grove,” said Meyer.

Sentiments echoed by Calhoun, who said, “To have the service trucks in the garbage trucks going up and down Charles Street plus the added traffic it’s an insult to the neighborhood.”

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The county said they want the community feedback in the project. Email your questions and concerns to culture@miamidade.gov.