Fillmore's Future at Odds

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With plans to renovate the 52-acre Miami Beach Convention Center and its surrounding space, lovers of the arts are afraid a local gem will crumble.

The Fillmore at the Jackie Gleason Theater has been a mainstay for art since 1950, when renowned acts such as The Dick Clark Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and of course Jackie Gleason graced the stage. With plans to revive the area, two developers are duking it out with their own plans.

One, South Beach ACE — a conglomeration of three firms — wants to renovate The Fillmore and take it back to its former glory, when it was the filming spot for Jackie Gleason.

The other, Portman-CMC — another conglomeration, which includes Cirque du Soleil as one of its partners — wants to incorporate the acrobatic act into the theater's future, along with what the Gleason already offers.

"If you look at the historical images of the building, it was a much more kind of classic, Miami modern building," Jason Long, an associate at OMA, a part of South Beach ACE, said. "That building, a lot of the architecture there in Miami Beach is a big part of the reason why the beach has maintained a certain kind of character, even with the more recent development that's been taking place there over the last decade."

The next public meeting on the matter is May 14, and the city will choose a firm in June.

For some locals, the latter plan is devastating. Lauren Reskin, owner of Sweat Records in Miami, believes that it will be the end of The Fillmore, as do more than 1,000 people who follow her Facebook page Save the Fillmore.

"The thought of losing a venue like The Fillmore, which is incredibly unique in its capacity as well as being a historical building was just something I couldn’t stand for," Reskin said.

Originally, Portman-CMC was going to demolish the aged building and replace it with a smaller venue, mainly for its partner, Cirque du Soleil. However, the firm has since changed its mind to instead renovate the building, including installing a Jukari facility where visitors can team up with a Cirque du Soleil professional to learn gymnastics. Portman-CMC also wants to put in an educational center for the performing arts.

Supporters of South Beach ACE's plan are still not satisfied though — Reskin and others fear that with the mega performance taking up valuable booking time, it'll be difficult to get in the shows that Miamians are used to getting at the Fillmore.

"Now that they've changed their opinion on bulldozing the building due to the public outcry, Cirque du Soleil is still one of their main partners and they still want to have Cirque du Soleil programming at that venue. Our movement is about keeping it as a concert venue," Reskin said. "I just really don't see it being feasible to have Cirque du Soleil coexisting with anywhere near as good of a concert roster as what's currently happening here."

Art Murphy, spokesman for Portman-CMC, said that this is not the case, and that Cirque du Soleil is currently working with Live Nation to discuss programming should the plan go through.

"We think there's enough flexibility for Cirque du Soleil to work with Live Nation to enhance the collaboration of the Gleason," he said.

In a press release from the firm, Jack Portman, vice chairman of Portman Holdings and John Portman & Associates, said that public input has been important.

“The Miami Beach community has been very vocal in public meetings, in the media and online. The residents made it clear that The Jackie Gleason Theater is an important landmark they want to keep. We listened, we heard, and we’ve found a way to adjust the master plan in order to keep the theater in place while still achieving our other objectives, creating a win-win for all," he said.Christiana Lilly