Miami Beach theater restoration shows glimmers of hope


Written by Monica Correa on October 5, 2021

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Still unclear on what to do with the Byron Carlyle Theater closed, the city of Miami Beach has agreed to put a placeholder of $ 400,000 from the city’s budget reserve to possibly be used for conceptual design, but not until the city commission gets community feedback, structural assessments and a solid plan.

Its conceptual design, if approved, would cost the city up to $ 400,000 of its resort tax revenues.

But after a lengthy discussion about allocating funds for the advancement of the design of the Byron Carlyle, the city commission last Thursday failed to come to an agreement on whether to spend the money, citing an inability to find a consensus on what to do with the building.

“We are talking about the early design starting point,” said Commissioner Mark Samuelian. “It doesn’t prejudge the solution, it doesn’t necessarily dictate what we’re going to do. But it’s an open process and I’m very keen that we have a community-driven design concept.

But he’s not financially responsible for spending the money on a design that might not come true because the city doesn’t yet have the $ 15-20 million it would cost to build a multi-cultural center. -facilities, which has been widely advocated, or renovate the old building, said Commissioner Ricky Arriola.

“My concern is that we spend between $ 400,000 and $ 500,000 on a design and then have it put on the back burner for two, three, four years,” said Arriola, pleading for the administration to spend as much as possible. ‘to $ 100,000 instead, “because that’s how these things work. And then we find the money, but we have to redo everything. “

MC Harry and Associates reported in June that the vintage 1968 two-screen cinema at 500 71st St. could be renovated to be fully or partially leased for $ 15,447,257 and rebuilt as a cultural center for $ 19,921,788. The city commission, citing other priorities for the capital, discussed alternatives to a P3 – a public-private partnership – and the cultural ties the city could make to help bring a cultural center to the construction of the Byron Carlyle. .

The property has been considered, for three years, as habitable, “condemned, a risk of demolition, with early traces of graffiti on the windows,” said Mr. Samuelian. Structural assessments and community engagement efforts could determine what the community expects to achieve.

A resident survey, the results of which are due Oct. 15, was conducted by the ETC Institute last March as “a quick snapshot of what the community was considering or was going to be looking for,” Deputy City Manager Lester Sola said. . Once the city gets this information, he said, it will start organizing community engagements to start exploring the possibilities of building the cultural center.

Former commissioner Nancy Liebman, who served from 1993 to 2001, said the city must do something now. “Your conversation was great, but we’ve heard it 15 times so it’s time to do something about it,” she said.

“I’m okay with having $ 400,000 there if we’re going to use it,” Mayor Dan Gelber said. “But I don’t want us to start going down the path of designing something if I don’t think there’s a consensus.”

Adopting a resolution to begin conceptual design without community input and the appropriate professional and structural assessments on building condition and theater market research, Commissioner Micky Steinberg said, creates an expectation that may not to be satisfied.

“We should ask the administration to further explore possible partnerships, whether it is a PPP or a cultural anchor, there are so many possibilities for cost reduction, before we start.” really any design process, ”Ms. Steinberg said. “Before an amount is spent, it should come back to the commission so that we can make sure that we are really moving in the right direction.”

“We need to understand where we are in the market,” added Mr. Arriola. “During Covid-19, consumer behavior changed dramatically. It is not known if the movie theaters will last. So even if the community tells us to build another movie theater, it may not be the most wise use of public funds. “

But allocating zero dollars to that, Samuelian said, is a mistake.

“Having a designated budget, whatever choice policymakers want,” said CFO John Woodruff, “drives the project forward. It’s a long process to get there, so, [not designating a budget] delay things.

Mayor Gelber has agreed to carry the item back into the budget, provided the spending is made after the necessary assessments and the results of the community survey.

“As we allocate up to $ 400,000 from our reserves, we are not going to spend anything until the city comes back with a plan that we approve,” Commissioner David Richardson said. “Then the money would be spent if it had to be spent.”

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