Homestead kicks off renovations to 1920s Seminole Theatre

May 12, 2015
When tourists and residents walk through Homestead's historic downtown, it's hard to miss the large, red and yellow neon sign that reads "Seminole Theatre."

What once was a bustling movie palace in the early 1920s, slowly became a deteriorated structure that eventually closed in 1979.

On Monday, Homestead officials celebrated the start of renovations to the historic Seminole theatre, which they hope will once again open its doors to the public by the end of this year.

In a May 2014 bond referendum, 64 percent of Homestead voters approved the theater's restoration, raising $5 million by increasing property tax bills 19 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value. Last March, the city council assigned Munilla Construction Management with the renovation project.

Ruth Campbell, 94, said the overhauling of the theater marks a point of growth for the community as residents are "willing to support it, pay for it and allow it to happen."

"It's just wonderful for me to just sit and watch and hear and see all these people energized to get this done," said Campbell, who was the first councilwoman to be elected in Homestead, and remembers visiting the theater with her husband and watching, Gone with the Wind — originally released in 1939.

This is not the first time the building has been restored. After a fire in 1940, the landmark was renovated with its iconic Art Deco façade, and in 1992 the structure was acquired by the city of Homestead after it suffered significant damage from Hurricane Andrew.

Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter hopes this and other renovations to the town's city hall and police station will thrust life into Homestead's economy.

"It's just that one more positive opportunity to tout that the city is really on the move," said Porter, who sees his city as a central economic point between the Florida Keys and the Everglades.

"People are finally starting to embrace that Homestead is more than just agriculture. We have a vision that takes a lot of smaller pieces and we're chasing those pieces."

Miami Herald
By Matias J. Ocner