Cost to Repair/Replace Byron Carlyle Theater Estimated at $15 to $22 Million

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Cost to Repair/Replace Byron Carlyle Theater Estimated at $15 to $22 Million:

After rejecting proposal from private developer, Miami Beach exploring its options

A conditions assessment of the city-owned Byron Carlyle Theater puts the repair or replacement costs for the structure at $15 to $22 million. In February, after a two-year formal process, Miami Beach Commissioners rejected a proposal from developers Jared Galbut and Matis Cohen to buy the land, build workforce or market rate housing, and deliver a 12,000 sq ft cultural space back to the City.

The Byron Carlyle Theater has been closed since October 2019 when then-City Manager Jimmy Morales wrote in a letter to Commissioners that it was “unsuitable for operations” given numerous electrical and structural issues which the City did not have the money to fix.

Back at square one, Commissioners are looking at their options. In March, Mayor Dan Gelber asked for a facility assessment to determine the costs to bring the building up to Code and make it habitable.

The Conditions Assessment and Recommendations Report reviewed the current conditions and provided cost estimates for three options: Renovating the building as a multi-use theater and tenant space, renovating the structure for a multi-use theater and cultural center, and new construction for a multi-use theater and cultural center.

The finally tally:
Renovation Option 1: Multi-Use Theater + Tenant Space
Total Project Cost: $15,447,257

Renovation Option 2: Multi-Use Theater + Cultural Center
Total Project Cost: $19,921788

New Construction: Renovation Option 2 with a new building shell
Total Project Cost: $22,014,868

Total Project Cost = Construction Cost, Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment, Permit Fees, Contractor General Conditions, Overhead and Profit, Insurance and Bond, and Design Fees.

The Byron Carlyle, designed by A. Herbert Mathes for Wometco Enterprises, was built in 1968. At the time, it had two theaters – one with 590 seats and the other 993. By 1986 it was a multiplex with 7 theaters. The City purchased it in 2001 and had two operators over the years, Stage Door Theater Company and O Cinema. Though not historic, nostalgic memories of the theater have been cited by the community as the City discussed its future.

Overall, the report said the “building structure appeared to be in good condition for its age” though it noted the need for additional testing of the existing structural systems, “particularly at the ground floor where flooding has occurred over time.”

The report indicates “all exterior doors and storefronts, and all interior systems and finishes” will need to be replaced. In addition, “Today’s code requirements for wind and flood resiliency will require significant reinforcing of the ground floor slab, the exterior walls, and some upgrade to the roof structure. This required work could be considered constructing a building within a building, which is challenging but possible.”

At 4.5 feet below the required elevation, “The theater experiences flooding in king tides and severe storms, and water damage in the large theaters and other below grade areas of the building was evident,” according to the report. “The below grade level also contains the FPL Vault, main electrical room, mechanical spaces and lift station. Water damage was evident throughout this below grade floor which regularly floods.”

Regarding the options, the report states, “If retention of the original building structure is pursued, a complete renovation is recommended. Any partial renovation will not address the many deficiencies of the building which have contributed to its current state.” Complete renovation includes taking the building down to its shell, removing the ground floor slab and below grade areas and installing a new slab to meet requirements for flood and wind loads along with a new flood panel system on doors, storefronts, or new windows; replacing all mechanical, electrical, fire alarm, fire protection equipment, and wiring; installing a new roof; and exterior restoration and painting.

With regard to its use as a theater or cultural arts center, the report notes, “The existing venue is lacking many backstage functions essential to the successful operation of a theater.” It proposes a new ADA compliant backstage area be constructed including a “receiving area, scene shop, green room, dressing rooms with restrooms, and prop and lighting storage on the second floor.”

Uses for the building could include a multi-use theater and tenant as noted in Option 1. “In this option, the east theater would be leased. The single volume space of over 9,500 SF with approximately 30’ clear height to structure could appeal to a tenant such as a market, drug store, large retail store, or food hall. The space could also be divided up into smaller tenants,” the report suggests.

Option 2 contemplates a cultural center. “In this option, the east theater would be developed into a community space. In this study, Cultural Center programming is indicated as an example. With the height available, a second floor level is built within the space. Suggested programming includes additional support areas and a rehearsal space for the Multi-Use Theater, which could also be used as a performance or meeting space, a public Community Lobby, adjustable sized meeting rooms or classrooms, gallery space, artist studios and a maker space. Other potential uses for the east theater are a film or arts center, a museum, a business incubator, university use, or office space,” according to the report.

“In the renovation options, working within the existing building shell in order to preserve the original architecture and maintain the familiarity of the existing building within the community will present logistical and physical challenges during construction,” the report cautions. “Additionally, hidden and unforeseen conditions may exist that could affect the project.”

“As an alternative, this report considers constructing the same size building as presented in Renovation Option 2 as New Construction. The current zoning requirements reduce the site buildable area slightly, though the same program can fit. This option assumes the existing FPL overhead line along the south side of the site can be removed as is occurring on neighboring development sites for the same line. As the City owns the parking lot directly to the south, a new construction project could include that lot. This project only considers building new on the existing theater lot,” the report states.

The Architect Engineer team that worked on the assessment included:
  • M.C. Harry & Associates, the Prime Consultant – Architecture, Planning and Interior services
  • Miller Legg – Civil Engineering & Flood Proofing consulting related services
  • Douglas Wood Associates – Structural Engineering related services
  • Basulto & Associates Consulting Engineers – Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection related services
  • Edward Dugger + Associates – architectural acoustics, AV systems, theatrical design related services
  • Gallagher Bassett Technical Services – materials testing services including asbestos, mold/mildew, and lead paint.


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