Heirs sue Miami to get back theater grandfather donated

(StarTribune) The heirs of a philanthropist who donated a historic theater to the city of Miami want it back.

A dissolved nonprofit controlled by the heirs of Maurice Gusman sued the city last month in an effort to take control of the Olympia Theater on Flagler Street and restore it to its former glory. They claim city officials have squandered the theater built in 1926 and violated the terms of an agreement with their grandfather.

Gusman donated the theater to the city in 1975. It is one of the oldest theaters in Miami and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Gusman's agreement with the city required the Miami Parking Authority to manage the property. When the parking authority gave up management of the theater, the city violated the deed and gave up its right to maintain ownership, according to the lawsuit by the nonprofit.

Tim Barket, an attorney for the family, told the Miami Herald that Gusman deeded the theater to the parking authority because he distrusted politicians and believed the agency was independent of the city.

The impetus of the lawsuit came after a grandson saw an order posted on the theater by city code enforcement to repair or demolish the building.

That was the "last straw" for the family, Barket said.

The city of Miami has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the dissolved nonprofit belonging to the Gusman heirs doesn't have legal standing to bring the lawsuit and that any claim of a breach in the deed is past the statute of limitations.

The city had been negotiating with Miami Dade College to take over management of the theater, but those talks fizzled.


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