Preservationists worry about what developer will do to Brickell archeological site near Miami Circle

Despite Tuesday vote advancing protection efforts, site a long way from being fully protected

MIAMI – Archeologists and Native American activists are worried about a new site across from The Miami Circle at Brickell Point, where the artifacts found were older than the Egyptian pyramids and the Roman Colosseum.

Traci Ardren, an anthropological archeologist with the University of Miami, said she is paying attention to The 444 Brickell project, which includes two parcels at 777 SE 5 St., and 444 Brickell Ave.

Ardren said the Miami Circle was likely the main ceremonial site of the Tequesta tribe. There are prehistoric artifacts at 777 SE 5 St., and an ongoing excavation, but digging has yet to start at 444 Brickell Ave.

“People have known it was an archaeological site since the Spanish arrived,” Ardren said on Thursday. “It was documented in the 1950′s when the building was built there in the 1970′s.”

The fate of the site along the south bank of the Miami River is in the hands of the members of Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board.

Related story: Major archaeological dig unearths history in Brickell

Ardren said the board had determined in April that because there has been so much excavation done, and there has been so much impact from the development, there wasn’t enough left to merit an archaeological designation.

“So it wasn’t a measure of the value of the site but how much it has been destroyed,” Ardren said. “This is where these ordinances really work in favor of development, they are not very strong in saving sites, or saving sites where amazing artifacts are coming out of the ground that we didn’t expect to find.”

In response to a vote siding with the protection of the site on Tuesday, a representative for The Related Group, the real estate development company behind the project, released a statement on Thursday saying the assessment of the findings is still in process, and “the site will be preserved” in collaboration with the city.

Robert Rosa, an activist with The American Indian Movement of Florida, a civil rights organization advocating for the preservation of the site, said he wants the “sacred” artifacts placed “back right where they are” and the high-rise development stopped.

“At this point in time, they are catering to the developer,” Rosa said about the board members, adding that he will be “going to battle” as he keeps an eye out for city permits.

Related story: Archeologists connect site to Miami Circle

Ardren said the outcome of the vote on Tuesday was not controversial, but she is concerned that the developer doesn’t expect this to stop the project’s plan, just delay it.

“We have slowed down the process there, so there is a chance, possibly, a slim one, but still a chance that we will be able to change what happens there, and keep that site safe in the ground where it is, not disturbed,” Ardren said.

The board is set to vote on the site designation in November. Ardren said those who want to preserve the site want a “green space.”

This way, she said, “people can enjoy it ... or do research there in the future when archeological has better, less destructive methods.”

Local 10 News reached out to officials with the city for more information on the next steps in the process but hadn’t heard back as of Thursday evening.


Related record: Progress reports

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About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."