State group hopes to put historic Miami Circle under federal agency
By Marilyn Bowden
Resolutions to transfer management of the Miami Circle to the National Parks Service and to incorporate it in a proposed Miami River Greenway were passed by the Miami Circle-Brickell Point Planning Group.
The 18-member planning group was appointed in February by Gov. Jeb Bush to oversee short- and long-term management of the site, east of Brickell Avenue and adjacent to Biscayne Bay.
Chair Janet Snyder Matthews, director of the state's Division of Historical Resources, said Sen. Bob Graham and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen would co-sponsor a bill asking for a study to consider long-term management of the Miami Circle as part of Biscayne National Park. The park, 9700 SW 328th St., is 9 miles east of Homestead.
"This will require an 18-month congressional study," Ms. Matthews said. "We have an obligation to look at short-term issues through our interim management agreement with Miami-Dade County."
After last week's resolutions, the immediate issues, she said, are securing and stabilizing archeologically sensitive areas while making it possible for the public to see the site.
In view of public pressure, said Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs, "it's important to make the site accessible to the public sooner rather than later. The problem has been coming up with an interim access plan with no resources."
Mr. Spring said a pro-bono team of A.T. Franco & Associates, architect; ACE Bamboo & Thatch, builders, and EDSA, a planning & landscaping design firm, have proposed a plan that would allow safe, economical public access while protecting the archaeological features from the elements.
"The current paved area would be used for parking for bus tours," he said. "We would not add further parking. We would construct a non-intrusive walkway between the paved area and the Miami Circle and erect a simple, palm-thatched roof over the circle itself to protect it. There would be very simple landscaping."
The cost, he said, would be $385,000.
"There has been receptivity from city government to pay for such a plan," Mr. Spring said. "We might also tap state resources and public donations held in a county trust fund for this."
He said construction would take between eight and 10 weeks.
State archaeologist Ryan Wheeler said such a structure would solve the problem of rainwater collecting in the basins and holes.
"In the next few months," he said, "we will institute a monitoring program to see what effect exposure to the elements is having."
The group asked that the team submit renderings of the proposed structure for review at the next meeting.
The Historical Museum of South Florida, which will provide interpretive signage and conduct public tours, has placed banners at the site, said President J. Andrew Brian. The banners hang from a billboard still advertising Brickell Point Towers, the mixed-use development planned for the property until the Miami Circle was discovered about three years ago in a pre-construction survey.
Brett Bibeau, assistant director of the Miami River Commission, proposed including the Miami Circle site in the Miami River Greenway, a riverfront walkway the commission is looking at in cooperation with the Trust for Public Land.
The greenway, which will run directly along the shore where possible, would restore public access to the waterfront. Mr. Bibeau said it would take four to six years to complete all phases, working east to west.
"Some sections already have fabulous amenities," he said. "Others, such as the new Second Avenue Bridge, are already approved."
Calling the greenway plan "an instrument of historic preservation," Mr. Bibeau said an organization is considering donating $25,000 toward implementation.
The planning group approved incorporating the site on Brickell Point into the plan, with the proviso that nothing physical be done without prior approval of the planning group and appropriate bodies for oversight and coordination.
Mr. Wheeler said the National Register of Historic Places recently approved and recommended adding the Miami Circle as a site of state and local significance.
"There is a bill to assess its significance as a National Historic Landmark," he said. "But right now we don't have enough information to support that assessment."
Ms. Snyder said the group would invite public input at forums before and after its next meeting, which would probably be in March.