News: Save the Fillmore Movement Begins

It was hard to miss Lauren Reskin at the March community meeting for the convention center. In a packed house of spectators gawking at light-up 3D models and giant posters of the proposed renovations,“Lolo” the youthful owner of Sweat Records stuck out with that hair of her’s dyed in Vampire-red. So did her message: save the Fillmore.

“It’s so important,” Reskin said about the Jackie Gleason Theater to the developers and the residents at that meeting. “It would be a huge blow to the entire South Florida music scene.”

Her comments were followed by strong applause from a crowd that had in most part echoed her sentiment that night.

In the final melee for the convention center contract, two teams remain with two different visions for the Fillmore; South Beach ACE proposes to renovate the Jackie Gleason Theater while Portman CMC’s early plans called for the demolition of the site and the creation of a new theater under the hand of Cirque du Soleil. This small portion of the 52-acre district redevelopment has pulled the most heartstrings among residents and seems to be evoking the island’s preservationist spirit.

A spirit Portman CMC was warned about several times.

Steve Berke, a candidate for the upcoming commission race, implored Portman CMC to have a backup plan to demolishing the theater -least they unleash the wrath of preservationists.

“I don’t know how much experience you have dealing with preservationists in Miami Beach,” he said, “but that one issue alone can cause you to not win this bid.”

At the time Jack Portman , Vice Chairman of Portman Holdings, acknowledged that the subject was “very touchy” and said his group was looking into different solutions. He still defended the proposal by stating they were trying to create the right kind of environment for the convention center, the headliner for the project.

Still Reskin worries about the kind of headliners a new Cirque du Soleil theater might exclude.

“Lots of us have spent years and years building a music scene,” she said that night. “The Fillmore with Live Nation running it has brought down some incredible shows.”

Reskin argues that South Florida is often overlooked because of the extra effort and money musical acts must exert to visit the tip of the peninsula. This would be magnified if the venue is shut down.

“Losing the Fillmore would be a huge step backwards, with booking agents again seeing Miami as a desert for their artists,” Reskin wrote in a letter to the editor for the Miami Herald.

Portman CMC has told the SunPost that their plans for a new theater would include a “venue that can house the current performances offered at the Fillmore.”

The discontent still rises.

Reskin is now making the media rounds as the most recognizable face in the save the Jackie Gleason Theater movement. The Miami Herald recently published a letter to the editor scribed by her, and another story by the daily is in the works, she’s appeared on WSVN, has blogged ways the community can help on her Sweat Records website, and is an instrumental member of a fast growing Facebook page.

A few weeks ago “Save the Fillmore Miami Beach At the Jackie Gleason Theater” was at under 500 members, as of print time it has more than doubled at 1,131.

“We want to keep our beloved venue,” posts Jason Koerner in a post linking to the WSVN story.

Posts include reminders to message the Miami Beach Commission along with email addresses to individual commissioners. It comes with a plea for decorum: “Please , please, please be committed and passionate about our cause, but not adversarial and mean.”

One page note signed by Kirk DeSouza and Darren Bruck declares “SOUTH BEACH ACE must win.” It goes on to explain the details of the projects and why it’s so important that the theater be saved:

“If this theater is demolished, no private developer will ever build another standalone concert venue in Miami Beach. Ever.”

“It will be the end – FOREVER- of live rock, pop and indie music and live theater in Miami Beach,” says the note.

Some who favor the demolition have said that building has had so many facelifts that any historic value has been lost.

Originally the Portman CMC side agreed and said the theater was just too large to save. In an interview with the SunPost Portman said the Jackie Gleason theater was “too big to be operational in an effective way.”

Their plan was to create a new theater and honor the Jackie Gleason legacy in different ways; one of them was naming the new ball room after the famous actor.

After some of the black lash Portman CMC is rethinking it’s plan with the theater, maybe even saving it if it fits in with their over all plans.

Portman spoke with the SunPost after the bruising community meeting and said:

“It’s a very passionate subject for a lot of people. From our perspective, we didn’t think it was worthy of the passion that has been shown. Given that it is being shown, we need to reevaluate how we look at it. From an urban planning point of view , from a convention center destination point of view. What we are proposing is the right solution. But if politically proposing what we are proposing doesn’t allow us to further participate, then we have to take a hard look at it. “

When pressed by the SunPost on whether that means preserving it, Portman said:

“Till tonight had no intention of preserving it, but I think we need to take another look.”

An early victory for the movement?

About Frank Maradiaga

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