Coconut Grove Playhouse Update – February 2015

Coconut Grove Playhouse Update – February 2015

As we have explained publicly for the past several months, we have been unable to respond to Coconut Grove Playhouse inquiries in detail due to Miami-Dade County’s “Cone of Silence” rules which apply to all County competitive selection processes, prohibiting any communication regarding a particular bid solicitation after it has been advertised and until a written recommendation is issued.  The Cone of Silence is designed to protect the professional integrity of the procurement process by shielding it from undue influences prior to the recommendation of a contract award.  The Cone of Silence now has been lifted for this project.

Consequently, we are able to provide the following key updates and clarifications:

  • Status of the County’s architectural and engineering selection process

The team assembled by Arquitectonica International Corporation is being recommended as the top-ranked team to provide architecture, engineering and specialty consultant services for the Playhouse project. Nine highly qualified local and national teams submitted their credentials for consideration on the project. Arquitectonica’s set of consultants was ranked the highest by the selection committee.

  • The composition of the Competitive Selection Committee (CSC)

The 5-person CSC appointed by the Mayor to evaluate the teams included: the Executive Director of the Black Archives (who has overseen the renovation and expansion of the historic Lyric Theater in Overtown and who currently serves as a member of the City of Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board, and was its chair from 2007 to 2009); a representative from FIU, the co-lessee of the Playhouse property (a senior university executive who has expertise in finance and served on the committee that negotiated the eventual contract with Arquitectonica); the CEO of the City of Miami’s Parking Authority (who will be involved in assessing the potential for a parking garage on the site and who has extensive experience managing and improving Gusman Center for the Performing Arts); the capital projects manager from the Department of Cultural Affairs who will be the lead in managing the architectural process (who has a background in architecture and extensive experience in building and renovating theaters); and the Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs.

  • The importance of the entire team

The Notice to Professional Consultants (NTPC) advertised for this project required the submission of a team of expert consultants necessary to accomplish the job.  This ranged from structural and traffic engineers, schedule and cost consultants to historic preservation, theater and acoustical consultants.  The selection committee’s assignment was to evaluate each of the teams and its members’ qualifications under a set of specific criteria that was included in the NTPC.

  • The qualifications of the Arquitectonica team

The team assembled by Arquitectonica includes supremely qualified and impressive representatives in each discipline. For example, Arquitectonica has experience in designing outstanding theaters and a commitment to the resurgence of Coconut Grove where the firm is headquartered. Fisher Dachs Associates and Talaske are national leaders in their fields of theater and acoustical consulting, respectively. Venue, the cost estimator, specializes in theater projects. These are illustrative examples only; please note that these highlighted comments and this update are not intended to replace the extensive documentation provided by the team members in Arquitectonica’s response to the County’s NTPC.

  • Historic preservation expertise on the Arquitectonica team

Historic preservation was among the extensive experience and qualifications that the NTPC outlined as a requirement for responding teams. The Arquitectonica team includes historic preservation architect Jorge Hernandez.  Mr. Hernandez currently is the Vice Chairman of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has served on the boards of Dade Heritage Trust, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation and the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board, among others.  He is a professor at the University of Miami and has an architectural practice with a distinguished track record for restoration and rehabilitation of historic projects. A number of the other team members have expertise in historic preservation (e.g., Fisher Dachs Associates, theater consultant, whose work includes the renovation of the Vivian Beaumont Theater for the Lincoln Center Theater Company, the renovation of the Alice Tully Hall and the expansion of the Juilliard School; The Spinnaker Group, LEED Consultant, whose work includes the historic renovation of the Coral Gables Museum and the Clifton Hotel on Miami Beach, and Venue, cost consultant, whose work includes the 1928 National Historic Landmark Tennessee Theatre).

  • The County’s selection process

Each member of CSC thoroughly reviewed the extensive written submissions from each of the 9 teams and independently scored each team’s qualifications pursuant to criteria published in the NTPC. There was no interaction allowed among the selection committee members prior to the selection committee meeting. The top-ranked firm was Arquitectonica.  The NTPC states the following (emphasis added):

“Upon conclusion of the First Tier evaluation process, the CSC may exercise one of the following options:

  1. The CSC may waive the Second Tier evaluation process, and recommend to the County Mayor or the County Mayor’s designee that a contract be negotiated with the highest ranked responsive and responsible proposer(s) based solely on the evaluation results of First Tier. Upon the County Mayor or County Mayor designee’s approval, the County shall enter into negotiations with the recommended proposer(s).
  2. The CSC may short-list and require short-listed respondents to participate in a Second Tier. Short-listed respondents may be required to submit additional documentation which may include, but is not limited to, knowledge of project scope, qualifications of team members assigned to project and ability to provide required services within schedule and budget, and/or to participate in oral presentations.

If the CSC decides by majority vote to waive Second Tier, the recommendation shall be reflective of the ranking. Upon the County Mayor or the County Mayor designee’s approval, the County shall enter into negotiations with the recommended respondent(s).”

The CSC voted unanimously to waive the Second Tier evaluation process and the Mayor authorized negotiations with the top-ranked respondent.

The architectural and engineering recommendation for the Coconut Grove Playhouse project will be reviewed by a committee of the Board of County Commissioners and then, by the entire Board of County Commissioners.  These are public meetings. It is anticipated that this process will begin in March or April. We will be sure to post as much advance notice as possible as soon as the item is placed on an agenda.

The information provided above refutes a number of inaccurate or deliberately false statements that continue to be made about the architectural and engineering selection process, and documents what actually has transpired. The County’s singular and unwavering objective since the day the Playhouse closed has been to restore great regional theater to Coconut Grove for the benefit of the public.  The following facts are provided in an effort to continue to set the record straight. 

  • The City of Miami’s Historic Designation Report for the Coconut Grove Playhouse was issued as part of the NTPC, therefore, all respondents had full access to it as well as other pertinent documents, such as a previously conducted charrette report and building program.
  • No decision regarding the existing Playhouse building and site has been made.  This is part of the work of the selected architectural and engineering team, once approved by the Board of County Commissioners. All eventual plans for the Playhouse will be subject to regulatory review by the City of Miami, including its Historic and Environmental Preservation Board.
  • Over the last two years at a number of public meetings, the Board of County Commissioners has reviewed and approved the overall plan for the Coconut Grove Playhouse, proposing an approximately 300-seat theater as the home for GableStage. These meetings have received extensive media coverage.  This plan also was reviewed and approved at public meetings of the Florida Cabinet and Governor and by the Board of Trustees of FIU. Efforts to suggest that this specific plan has not been presented and reviewed publicly and consistently are incorrect.
  • No member of the staff of the Department of Cultural Affairs has ever made a phone call to nor communicated with anyone in an effort to curtail commentary, false or not, regarding the Playhouse.

With the Cone of Silence now lifted, we are looking forward to communicating regularly on the work to develop a plan for the Coconut Grove Playhouse site that restores great theater, helps to revitalize the Grove and is respectful of the complex social, historic and cultural objectives that we endeavor to achieve.

Originally published at

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