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Front Page » Opinion » States Brickell Land Quadruples In Valueis It Time To Sell

States Brickell Land Quadruples In Valueis It Time To Sell

Written by on August 25, 2005

By Michael Lewis
Nearly seven years ago, an archaeological dig at the bare site planned for a pair of condo towers at the mouth of the Miami River discovered the remains of some sort of circle, which this newspaper immediately reported.

The next year, the Miami Herald discovered the story, trumpeted it and spearheaded a drive to save the by-then-famed Miami Circle from the path of development. The state stepped up, bought the land for $26.7 million – it had cost the developer $8 million a year or two before – and laid plans to exhibit the circle.

Thanks to those efforts, today, visitors can find a fence at the mouth of the Miami River behind which, if they could get there, they would find 2.2 bare acres under which the state has again buried the Miami Circle.

Archaeologists decided the circle was built by Tequesta Indians 2,000 years ago. They think it was a sacred site focused on marine animals because they found the skull of a bottlenose dolphin there. They said it is the only such circle they know of.

Recently, two similar circles were found on the opposite bank of the river downtown, where construction is ongoing on a variety of condo projects. No effort was made to save those circles, possibly because no bottlenose-dolphin skulls were found – or possibly because it’s embarrassing enough to have one very expensive state-owned site where nothing is getting done.

Well, not exactly nothing. There are hearings and hearings and hearings followed by meetings and meeting and meetings followed by studies and studies and studies. Maybe that’s progress.

As we reported last week, a series of meetings here in May, which followed hearings here, have led to recommendations that will – if all goes well – trigger another round of meetings here maybe by the end of this year and, if not then, certainly before the Tequestas return to reclaim their land.

"Unfortunately, these things move very slowly," said project manager Terri Urbanowski, stating the obvious.

As they move slowly, discarded have been plans to build paths for the public to walk up to the site, plans for a 60-foot-tall thatched-roof structure to protect the site and shelter viewers and plans to bus in visitors for tours. The state reburied the circle almost two years ago to protect it from the elements as the wheels of progress ground slowly.

The circle site is not being studied – and probably never will be. Nor is it on view to a public that has been led to believe that it has some significance, justifying the state’s paying a developer a profit of more than $18 million on an $8 million investment.

There is, however, good news: When the Related Group this year bought the Sheraton Brickell hotel next door with plans to level it for three high-rise towers, state ownership of the circle site guaranteed the developer that nothing would block buyers’ views of the mouth of the river.

On the other hand, condomania offers the state a very profitable out: The $8 million site it bought for $26.7 million is now worth upward of $100 million to some condo developer like Related that could preserve the famed Miami Circle in its underground burial site as well as the state does – and with far fewer hearings, meetings and studies. Time to sell? Top Front Page About Miami Today Put Your Message in Miami Today Contact Miami Today © Copyright 2005 Miami Today designed and produced by Green Dot Advertising and Marketing