Due to the high cost of making repairs to the Byron Carlyle Theater, the City will not renew O Cinema’s lease when it expires at the end of October. The deteriorating condition of the building has been widely discussed and debated by Miami Beach Commissioners who learned last Fall that the cost of addressing deferred maintenance items as well as repairs needed for the building’s 50-year recertification totaled approximately $3.2 million.
Commissioners decided to allow O Cinema to complete their current lease expiring October 31, 2019 with an option to renew on a month to month basis “contingent upon the building being brought up to current building code standards and the required repairs described in the 50-year recertification,” according to a Letter to Commission from City Manager Jimmy Morales notifying them of the non-renewal.
The facility was able to remain occupied with “minimal electrical and fire upgrades” to ensure public safety and inspections following every major rain “to ensure electrical safety.” The City is continuing to provide regular maintenance, “however, structural and electrical deficiencies identified during the 50-year recertification report have not been addressed due to the costs associated as discussed at the December 12, 2018 City Commission Meeting,” according to Morales. “Issues with mechanical systems, roof leaks and system failures continue to make this facility unsuitable for operations. As per the recommendation of the Building Department, and the condition of the Byron Carlyle, the property is to be vacated upon expiration of their lease on October 31, 2019.”
O Cinema co-founder/co-director Vivian Marthell said in an email, the North Beach location “meant being able to grow as an organization and to proffer some arts and culture back into the area. We got to the serve the community with our yearlong cinematic programming and our exciting events like our LGBTQ brunches, our NEA funded Lift Every Voice programming, our Awake & Aware series, and our Hip Hop House events. It’s been especially thrilling to bring Miami Film Festival to North Beach for the last five years and to host luminaries like Iris Apfel, Billy Corben, Edward James Olmos, and our unforgettable evening with Iggy Pop. Also, who can forget our legendary annual Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings! The community has been amazing in their support and the sense of belonging. Many of our patrons walk to the cinema – the telltale sign of community. To be able to bring back to life a cultural institution and be part of the resurgence of this wonderful neighborhood has been a pleasure and an honor – and we're looking forward to being part of it for a long time to come.”
As the costs to repair the building became known, the City issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for redevelopment of the facility which resulted in two bidders, one seeking to build a hotel and another proposing workforce housing. An evaluation committee recently gave the edge to the hotel. The next step is up to Morales to recommend one, both, or none of the proposals to the Commission for its consideration.
As part of the RFP, bidders were required to set aside a minimum of 10,000 sq ft for arts and culture space which could include a theater. Asked if O Cinema would like to be part of that, Marthell replied, “Yes! O Cinema at North Beach has been our home for the last five years and as much as we will miss being at the old Byron Carlyle we look forward to the next incarnation. We would love nothing more than to continue to cinematically serve this, our community. We have heard from so many folks that they'd like to see us have a permanent home in the future development and we too would love to continue serving North Beach with daily, year-round, programming that’s accessible, informative, entertaining and inspiring.”
In the meantime, she wrote, “While we look for opportunities that will keep us programming North Beach in the short term, we are beyond ecstatic to expand into South Beach” where they’ve taken over management of the old Cinematheque. “We are importing all our great programming and special events to the theater plus we get to have the Miami Beach Film Society as our company-in-residence ensuring its continuity as we reach towards engaging new local audiences to share in our vision for Washington Avenue. There’s no need to cross the causeway to get your dose of great independent film.”
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