Barring any drastic moves by the Miami city commissioners Thursday, the controversial Tequesta site unearthed downtown will have a marquee showcase from the sidewalk and numerous interpretation options for visitors.
City commissioners should not take issue with the compromise in their meeting tomorrow, as it appears all sides -- archeologists, preservationists, and the developer -- are happy with the deal. After two grueling 12-hour sessions last week, all sides came to a compromise.
MDM Development has agreed to glass enclosures over two of the "circles" of Tequesta postholes, as well as a see-through covering for a brick well thought to be part of a the mid-19th Century U.S. Army Fort Dallas. They are also going to pay for a model of Flagler's Royal Palm Hotel, which also sat on the site, a film as well as upkeep and interpretation provided by HistoryMiami.
Noted Miami historian Arva Moore Parks said, "I think that it provides an opportunity to work together between the future and the past. ... None of the people, the preservationists like me, were trying stop development. We just wanted anyone who is going to develop in the present and future to be mindful of important elements of the past before they plan their future development."
It was a complicated process with escalating rhetoric on all sides. One of the men more vocal in the public talks was Eugene Stearns, the lawyer for MDM Development.
"This developer, unlike some, has just really had a commitment to doing the right thing," says Stearns. "The question is defining what that is. But we’re enormously proud of what happened here, and proud, frankly, that we were able to participate."
According to Stearns, MDM has spent more than $3 million on the archeological dig. In return, the company asked that any historic designations and permitting no longer slow the process, as MDM is paying for the dig and the construction included.
Perhaps this compromise was their play the whole time -- a hope for consensus so the building would proceed and there would be a world-class attraction inside. Regardless, the decision reached is a win for the city and people of Miami.
Miami should be proud today. Some of its smartest people, working together, have made a mature decision through compromise that righteously upholds a common and shared history. The Tequesta died off long ago but they were the first Miamians. And this dig undeniably proves that the downtown site at the mouth of the Miami River was the birthplace of our city. However you identify -- black, white, Latin, or even native -- you are not Tequesta. But we as a city owed it to the whole planet to preserve this ancient site for later generations.
Part of Miami’s identity is the faraway hope it will be put on the larger map of global and somehow “important” cities like New York. It’s time we realize we are already there. Rome, Tokyo or London would not have obliterated the most important archeological find in the city’s history for a movie theater and some condos.
"I think the fact that this is going to be visible from the sidewalk may create a new group of people who are interested in the history of our city," says Parks.
And future generations, hopefully far in to the future, can walk past the birthplace of our city and know that today, we made the right decision.