COCONUT GROVE (CBSMiami) – The back and forth on how the renovation of the nearly 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 Gloriana Calhoun, longtime Coconut Grove resident and former set designer.

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Calhoun added that the Coconut Grove Playhouse was a highly sought after venue, where renowned productions would test their plays on audiences before they started 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 make an exceptional theater in this place to cultivate the arts,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a Playhouse Project update.

Besides the mayor, commissioner Raquel Regalado and other actors of the project met to discuss the renovation.

The current proposal on the table would demolish part of the historic 1,000-seat theater and replace it with a smaller 300-seat theater with a place and parking.

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“The entirety of the historic building we are restoring to its 1927 design and in doing so we have the ability to create pop-up restaurants and retail spaces. Finally, this campus concept gives us the possibility of creating outdoor spaces that invite the neighborhood, something that the current site does not have, ”said Alejandro Gonzalez of Arquitectonica, the company responsible for the design of the projects.

But many in the community are not happy with the proposal.

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

Meyer added that the new design would also cause the Playhouse to lose its historic designation and transform Charles Avenue, which is also historically referred to as the oldest street in South Florida founded by the area’s first black settlers, into a service road.

“It’s just despicable and an insult to the Bahamian settlers who founded Coconut Grove,” Meyer said.

Sentiments echoed by Calhoun, who said: “To have the service trucks in the garbage trucks going up and down Charles Street in addition to the extra traffic is an insult to the neighborhood.”

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The county said it wanted community feedback on the project. Email your questions and concerns to [email protected]

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