Dueling revamping plans for Jackie Gleason Theater
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) -- Separate efforts to revamp the section of the Miami Beach Convention Center where the Jackie Gleason Theater is located feature two competing plans that are eliciting debate and disapproval from local residents.
One proposal for what is now called The Fillmore at the Jackie Gleason Theater is a plan by the Portman-CMC group. It would completely level the former home of "The Jackie Gleason Show." "Knocking it down would mean the end of the Earth," said part-time Miami Beach resident Steve Anthony.
Resident Kelly Nugent also objected to the possibility of demolishing the storied venue. "Oh, no. I like it there. I've been there a couple of times," she said. "That would be awful."
Portman-CMC developer Ugo Colombo said they do not intend to dishonor the legacy of the beloved TV and stage star. "We separate Jackie Gleason as a historical person, his memory, and the theater as a structure," he said.
The proposed structure would be a partnership with Cirque du Soleil, a company that, according to Colombo, is responsible for a lot more than acrobatics and dance spectacles. "It's a much more diversified company than the performances that we're used to seeing," said Colombo. "They produce many events for convention centers, they produce many concerts." The Portman plan also includes a new convention center, a hotel and many green spaces anchored by a town square.
Similarly, the other proposal being considered also includes a new convention center and a hotel with green spaces, but the South Beach ACE project calls for a revitalization of the Jackie Gleason Theater with a nod to its 1950s roots. "The original facade of this building, which is very similar to that of the Dade County Auditorium, was a very sleek mid-70s architecture," said South Beach ACE representative Victor Diaz. "What we're doing is restoring that. It has a lot more glass, it has a lot more transparency, it has a curvilinear front."
Record store owner and Gleason advocate Lauren Reskin said the venue is unique and irreplaceable. "In Miami there's no other comparable venue that can accommodate the artists that come here," she said. "A lot of those artists are not ready for the American Airlines Arena, but are too big to play in a nightclub kind of venue."
Reskin is concerned a Cirque du Soleil-run theater would shut out some artists. "It would be really tragic for the booking agents of the world to see South Florida as a desert, as they did 20 years ago when there was a huge lull in the scene," she said.
Hundreds have protested the demolition plan on social media. The theater's fate now rests with Miami Beach voters. City commissioners will decide in June which proposal will appear on the ballot in November's election.
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