The efforts to save the Princess Theater have failed after the former Uptown fixture was recently leased to a restaurant.
“Flickering hope to revive the theater, like the marquee, is extinguished,” David Prytherch, a city councilor, Miami associate professor of geography and founding member of Friends of the Princess Theater, wrote on the Friends of the Princess Theater Facebook page last Friday.
Prytherch was one of over 3,600 friends of the Princess Theater who was saddened to see the outcome.
“What a long saga of missed opportunities,” Prytherch wrote.
The revival efforts began when the theater was initially offered to the City of Oxford as a donation from the previous theater group. The theater shuttered for the first time in 2012 when the city hesitated to accept the donation, due to a desire to conduct an environmental analysis of the space and other preliminary checks.
Then the theater group reneged on their promise of a donation and instead sold to a group of four investors in the meantime: Matt Rodboro, Chris Rodboro, Lindsay Myers and Ted Wood.
At the behest of the investor group, the theater briefly reopened in 2014 and subsequently experienced a fire, leading to the eventual re-development of the building. The original 1913 framework was demolished and construction was completed of a new theater shell with student housing attached.
Because the inside construction of the theater was left incomplete, the search for a theater operator able to shoulder the potential $600,000 to $800,000 cost of finishing the building was difficult, Prytherch said.
There was a city-wide economic development push for the Princess Theater. The Community Improvement Corporation agreed to a revolving loan fund and city council expressed an interest in funding the design for the space on the condition the investors provided a reasonable rate for rent.
With these economic incentives, Danny Heilbrunn of the Danbarry Group was interested in operating the potential theater.
Last year’s Miami’s Associated Student Government heavily advocated for the rebirth of the Princess Theater as well.
Former ASG President Maggie Callaghan and Vice President Luke Elfreich “kept this at the front burner and facilitated meetings with the University administration and building owners,” Prytherch said.
Despite these efforts, “The owners never really presented an affordable rent offer and they chose to lease to a restaurant,” Prytherch said. “That’s effectively the end of the Princess Theater.”
Prytherch believes maybe more could have been done to save the Princess, but the community and city did what they could to try and make it happen.
“Had there been more sources of local funding — from the city, from Miami — that would have bridged the gap,” Prytherch said. “Ultimately, it would have become a restaurant long ago were it not for the visibility students and community members brought to it.”
Updates to this story will be available online at miamistudent.net