A unanimous decision to protect an indigenous village site raises questions about its impact on Related Group
In a significant move aimed at preserving the rich archaeological history of Miami's past, the city's historic preservation board voted unanimously to designate a portion of the site at 444 Brickell Avenue, home to an ancient Tequesta tribe village, as a protected archaeological landmark. However, this decision is now shrouded in uncertainty as the developer, Related Group, proceeds with plans to construct a luxury condo tower on the same site, raising concerns among activists and indigenous representatives.
Legal complexities for The Related Group surrounding designation
The preservation board's 6-0 vote marked a crucial step in acknowledging the historical significance of the site, which boasts extensive evidence of a thriving native culture dating back thousands of years. Despite the designation, legal conditions negotiated between the Related Group and the city acknowledge the vested legal interests of the developer in building a 3rd tower on the 1.5-acre lot. Related's attorney, Iris Escarra, argued that zoning and site-plan approvals granted a decade ago give the developer the right to proceed with construction.
While the designation was seen as a positive step by preservationists, activists and Native American tribes present at the hearing expressed disappointment. Despite the ceremonial groundbreaking for Baccarat Residences, a luxury condo tower behind 444 Brickell, Related continues construction even as archaeologists are actively excavating the site. Concerns were raised about the potential violation of sacred grounds, especially since human remains have been discovered on the property.
Conditions and concerns for future excavations
Jeff Ransom, Miami-Dade County's chief archaeologist, and other experts expressed concerns about the conditions outlined in the designation report. Some conditions appeared to limit the preservation board's oversight of future archaeological discoveries at 444 Brickell. Although the board revised a condition to enhance its ability to review decisions jointly made by archaeologists from Related and the city, the authority remains advisory and not binding.
While Related Group did not contest the designation, attorney Iris Escarra emphasized that the developer intends to move forward with its construction plans. The next steps involve the creation of "preservation action plans" promised by Related, outlining their approach to preserving a portion of the site, memorializing its original occupants, and displaying artifacts. This collaboration between the city and the developer aims to connect different sections of the Tequesta village that have been disrupted by development and roads.
News Source: Miami Herald