Brickell Park sale well under way despite outcry
By Paola Iuspa
The sale of Brickell Park is under way despite arguments from civic leaders that the deal will strip the community of a waterfront parcel with archaeological value.
An $18 million sales contract has been placed on the 2.3-acre park east of Brickell Avenue between the Sheraton Biscayne Bay Hotel and First Presbyterian Church.
Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton said he was aware of the deal and of the buyer's intent to spend $1 million landscaping the Miami Circle archeological site, north of the park. He said the commission in 1999 committed $2 million from the sale toward preservation of the Miami Circle. But a resolution affirming that agreement was never passed, according to records.
The sale could end a 13-year dispute between the City of Miami and the Brickell family, which in 1925 donated the land for a park. If the sale goes through, the city and Brickell family would equally split the proceeds, according to the '99 settlement.
Conflict started in 1987 when the city passed a resolution recognizing the site as prime for development and spelling out the city's intent to sell. The Brickells filed suit to get land back.
The Brickell family, which used the land as a burial grounds, said they had given up the land with the condition the city keep it up and maintain it as a cemetery. Otherwise, it was to go back to the family, according to the document.
After years of litigation, it was agreed the Brickells would sell the property and distribute the proceeds between the city and family. The settlement placed the title in the hands of a trustee and established that both parties would share closing costs, including the trustee's fee and a 3% brokerage commission.
Robert Gallagher, the Brickell family's attorney, did not return phone calls to his office on Tuesday. Stephen Arbuckle, president of Maddux & Co. real estate, said he could not comment on the deal until the contract was filed and became public record.
Community groups have fought to preserve the park and have asked city commissioners to reconsider their position, said Jean Whipple, a member of Save Brickell Park Coalition.
Becky Roper Matkov, Dade Heritage Trust executive director, said the coalition, the Brickell Area Association and her group this week were analyzing alternatives available to prevent the sale. The Heritage Trust, she said, considered saving the park a priority.
"It will be a travesty to sell the last remaining green space on Brickell Avenue now that you have so many people choosing to live on Brickell," she said.
Ms. Matkov, who is a member of the state-created Miami Circle Planning Committee, said information about a buyer giving money to landscape the archeological site was "hogwash.
"That is nonsense. That has nothing to do with the park," she said. "We don't even know what type of landscaping we want."
Save Brickell Park Coalition supporters include the Miami-Roads Neighborhood Civic Association, the Building Owners & Managers Association, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Miccosukee Indian Tribe, whose representatives say the park has demonstrable archeological value and could be protected by federal and state law. Coalition members also have said rezoning the site for any other use could be legally challenged.