Guest Post: Committee to Preserve Byron Carlyle Theater

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Please see below post from the Committee to Preserve the Byron Carlyle Theater.

The Committee to Preserve Byron Carlyle Theater is a group of Miami Beach residents, neighborhood associations, civic leaders and members of the arts and culture community. We propose that the publicly owned, iconic Byron Carlyle Theater be saved and enhanced to become the anchor of North Beach’s planned Town Center. The Byron Carlyle can become a North Beach engine for economic growth and activity and put North Beach on the map as Miami Beach’s newest destination. It can connect North Beach to its preeminent past and provide a walkable destination for tourists, residents and families. We urge the Miami Beach Commission to work with residents to create a new Byron Carlyle Theater that will be a catalyst for a more vibrant and prosperous community. 

 Background 

1. The eastern commercial corridor of North Beach has many similarities to South Beach and could be revitalized with similar success, assuming the same sensitivity to preservation of historic architecture. In South Beach, potential residents, visitors and investors were attracted to the unique, low-rise collection of Art Deco buildings that evoked 1930’s and 1940’s history. North Beach provides the same charm and uniqueness with its collection of low-rise MiMo buildings that evoke the late 1940’s,1950’s and 1960’s, similarly within a pedestrian-friendly setting. 

2. The Byron Carlyle Theater, although sadly in a state of disrepair, is one of the most recognizable cultural landmarks in North Beach, along with the North Beach Bandshell and Normandy Fountain. The Byron Carlyle is an icon that references an era in Miami Beach history when the city was on the map due to the presence of the Beatles, Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason and Muhammad Ali. The theater also invokes memories of residents and visitors who considered the theater their favorite location to see movies. 

3. The Byron Carlyle is a historic icon as well. It was opened in 1968 as the Wometco Byron Carlyle Twin Theatres and was the largest theater in South Florida at that time. Wometco Enterprises is historically important to Miami for operating the largest chain of movie theaters in Florida and founding Miami’s first television station. Jackie Gleason attended the theater’s opening which featured the world premiere of his movie Skidoo

4. A renovation of the Byron Carlyle Theater that preserves elements from its former state of glory could showcase North Beach to the country’s arts and tourist communities in the same way that Friedman’s Bakery publicized South Beach to the art and architecture communities. The restoration/re-creation of the façade with its collage of Miami Beach islands; the smaller theater’s lipstick red walls, alternating red and black upholstered seats and silver lame curtain; and the larger theater’s deep moss green walls and upholstered seats would provide a historic, one-of-a-kind attraction worth publicizing. 

5. The Byron Carlyle’s central location in North Beach’s planned Town Center makes the site uniquely positioned to jumpstart economic growth and activity. It is well established that cultural centers increase local pedestrian and mobile traffic, revitalizing local businesses and generating income, jobs and growth. A functioning arts community can make North Beach a tourist destination. The Colony Theater on Lincoln Road is estimated to have an economic impact of $10 million per year on the surrounding area, illustrating the ripple effect a successful cultural center can generate. Such income can offset the economic costs of saving and repurposing the Byron Carlyle and continue providing revenue for years to come. 

6. A Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was recently approved for North Beach’s Town Center, including the Byron Carlyle. One important role for a CRA is funding development and activities that revitalize a community and spur growth and development. While it takes time for a CRA to generate funds, cities often borrow using CRA funding projections, to provide funding sooner. CRA funding was used in downtown Hollywood to create Cinema Paradiso with great success. A CRA could be used in North Beach to offset building and operational costs of the Byron Carlyle. 

7. Residents of North Beach have exhibited overwhelming support for saving the Byron Carlyle. An online petition calling for preservation of the theater has over 1,100 signatures thus far. Residents object to their landmark theater, icon and link to the past meeting a wrecking ball. The North Beach Master Plan, passed by voters in 2016, states that “there should be no net loss of publicly owned land,” it promises to “Better Utilize Public Lands” and contemplates a “…development project that could enhance the vision of the Town Center.” The Byron Carlyle is uniquely positioned to play that role. 

A New Byron Carlyle Arts Center 

We request that the City of Miami Beach allocate funds and staffing to develop a plan for the new Byron Carlyle, with consideration of the type of programming that would be most successful and the cultural organizations and commercial partners that would help make the project a success. Our committee has contacted some of the most successful, acclaimed cultural organizations in South Florida and identified cultural partners interested in having a home at the Byron Carlyle. We have also communicated with retail businesses and restaurants that are extremely enthusiastic about working with the Byron Carlyle. We have been in contact with architects and construction professionals to review the current conditions of the Byron Carlyle, to help provide the best options to keep the location as a theater and arts center. Based on the responses we received, we propose the following facilities and restorations: 

1. Byron Carlyle Facilities: 

a. A cinema multiplex consisting of multiple theaters capable of showing more than one title at a time, including independent/foreign films. 

b. One or more indoor/outdoor cafés. 

c. A bookstore and/or gift shop. 

d. A venue for live performances and lectures. 

e. Classrooms and workshops for afterschool programs and adult classes in art, theater, dance, music and film. 

f. Artist studios. 

g. Art galleries. 

2. Byron Carlyle Restoration: 

a. Retention/restoration of the existing structure shell. 

b. Restoration/re-creation of the façade including the collage depicting the islands of Miami Beach. 

c. Restoration/re-creation of lobby and stadium fixtures, furnishings, and decorations such as carpet, wallpaper, curtains, ticket booths, concession stands and historic posters, with the addition of decorations that reference Wometco Enterprises and Miami history. 

d. Retention of existing stadium chairs. 

e. Redesign of the interior to accommodate the uses listed above 

ADDENDUM 1 

External Links to Information on the Byron Carlyle Theatre 

1) Link to the MDPL blog post showing archival photographs of the Byron Carlyle: 

2) Link to the ‘Save the Byron Carlyle Theater from Demolition’ petition showing over 1,100 signatures as of November 12, 2020: 

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/579/358/791/save-the-byron-carlyle-theater-from-demolition/

3) Link to the YouTube Video of the MDPL ‘Saving the Byron Carlyle Forum’ on October 20, 2020:

4) Link to YouTube Video on O Cinema celebrating Byron Carlyle’s 50th anniversary in July 13, 2018:

5. ADDENDUM 2 

Survey of Miami Area Buildings by A. Herbert Mathes, 

Architect of Byron Carlyle Theater HOTELS BUILT LOCATION STATUS 
Allison Hotel 1951 6261 Collins Avenue  Miami Beach, FL 33140 Open as Hilton Cabana Miami Beach 
Continental Hotel 1948 4000 Collins Avenue  Miami Beach, FL 33139 Open as Hampton Inn Miami Beach 
Geneva Hotel 1952 1520 Collins Avenue  Miami Beach, FL 33139 Open 
Island House 1949 1428 Collins Avenue  Miami Beach, FL 33139 Open 
Parisian Hotel 1953 1510 Collins Avenue  Miami Beach, FL 33139 Open 
Revere Hotel 1950 Ocean Drive at 11th Street  Miami Beach, FL 33139 Demolished 1993 
Versailles Tower,  Fontainebleau Hotel 1958 4441 Collins Avenue  Miami Beach, FL 33140 Open 
WOMETCO THEATERS 
163rd Street Theatre/  Patio Theatre 1963 1245 NE 163rd Street  North Miami Beach, FL 33162 Closed 1994, Demolished 
Byron Carlyle Theatre 1968 500 71st Street  Miami Beach, FL 33140 Closed 2019 
Coral Way Auto Theater/ Coral Way Drive In 1949 SW 24th Street and 70th Avenue, Miami, FL Closed 
Crossroads 2 Theatre 1965 2070 Tyrone Boulevard, St. Petersburg, FL 33170 Closed 1988 
Dadeland Triplex 1967 7440 SW 88th Street,  Miami, FL 33156 Closed 
Davie Boulevard Drive-In 1955 3200 W. Davie Boulevard  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312 Closed 1975 
Kendale Lakes Triple 1977 13975 SW 88th Street  Miami, FL 33186 Closed 1990 
North Andrews Drive-In 1953 4200 N. Andrews Avenue  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33334 Closed 
North Dade Drive-In 1956 17175 NW 27th Avenue  Miami, FL 33056 Closed 1986 
Palm Springs Twin One and Two 1962 419 West 49th Street  Hialeah, FL 33012 Closed 
Park 11 Theatre 1965 501 North Orlando Avenue  Winter Park, FL 32789 Closed 
PUBLIC BUILDINGS 
Flagler Dog Track 1959 450 NW 37th Avenue  Miami, FL 33125 Repurposed as Magic City Jai-Alai 
Miami Beach Public Library  (bas relief by Albert Vrana) 1962 2110 Collins Avenue  Miami Beach, FL 33139 Partially demolished; drum retained 
RESIDENCES 
Lois Ann 1945 815 Alton Road  Miami Beach, FL 33139 807 Alton Road now includes 3 1945/1947 buildings 
Mark Leo 1947 801 Alton Road  Miami Beach, FL 33139 807 Alton Road now includes 3 1945/1947 buildings 
Kimberley 1947 807 Alton Road  Miami Beach, FL 33139 807 Alton Road now includes 3 1945/1947 buildings 

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