Management of the City of Miami Axes College Tower Theater

After 20 years of supporting arthouse cinema and performances at the Tower Theater on Calle Ocho, Miami Dade College will no longer operate the historic venue.

The City of Miami sent Miami Dade College (MDC) a notice last week that the college’s management contract for the Tower Theater will be terminated effective January 2, 2023.

“The City wishes to provide the College with written notice of termination to ensure a smooth transition for the College,” reads the September 19 letter, signed by Jacqueline Lorenzo, Acting Director of the Department of Real Estate and asset management (DREAM ). “We thank you for your services in managing the property over the past few years.”

The notice of termination (attached at the end of this article) does not provide a reason to dissolve the city’s arrangement with the college.

Achieved by new times On Monday, an MDC spokesperson explained that the college had a five-year lease on the property beginning in 2016 and had the option to renew for five years after providing the city with certain documents. The college had been in talks with the city for 20 months to process the lease renewal, but communications broke down and, despite the college’s intention to remain on board as theater manager, the lease was terminated, according to middle School.

“It is unfortunate that the city has terminated our lease. We have been good stewards of this important community asset for 20 years,” the MDC spokesperson said. “At the end of the day, it’s a city building, and the city gets to choose what it does with its buildings.”

The termination came just three days before a Miami city commission meeting with two resolutions on the agenda, to hand over control of the Tower Theater and its adjacent parking lot to the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, Brigade 2506, so that they can “better manage” the property, as one of the resolutions put it.

The resolutions were sponsored by Commissioner Joe Carollo, who reportedly pushed the veterans association to take over the property. Measures included a plan to build affordable housing on the property as well as a museum commemorating the attempted Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.

Rafael Montalvo, president of Brigade 2506, tells new times that his group was interested in the parking lot behind the theater as the site of the proposed museum, but wanted nothing to do with the theater itself.

“We said no but [Carollo] insisted. We don’t want the tower. We are all 80 years old. We don’t want to quarrel with anyone,” says Montalvo.

The resolutions were removed from the Sept. 22 agenda by Miami City Manager Arthur Noriega during the committee meeting. The city nevertheless persisted in dissolving its management agreement with Miami Dade College.

CDM has had operated the 1920s Tower Theater since 2002, when the college reopened the site and revitalized it into a cultural landmark for the Little Havana community. The theater houses the fall season GEMS Film Festivalorganized by the Miami Film Festival, which will take place from November 3 to 6.

MDC says it will continue to provide its scheduled programming and shows until it is no longer the building manager in January.

When asked if the college would attempt to obtain a new lease on the property, the spokesperson expressed uncertainty as to the procedure for doing so, but that the college is in communication with those responsible for the town.

“Miami Dade College has a vested interest in continuing to operate the Tower Theater as we do today,” the spokesperson said.

The City of Miami released a statement to new timesconfirming that the college’s management contract ends in January 2023. The city said it would “assume control of the management and operation of the Tower Theater for the foreseeable future”.

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