Archaeologist to oversee redevelopment of Dupont Plaza
By Susan Stabley
Miami archaeologist Bob Carr will oversee the demolition and redevelopment of the Dupont Plaza site, along the Miami River just across the water from where the 2,000-year-old Miami Circle was uncovered.
Archaeologists are required to work with developers on projects in designated conservation zones, which the Dupont site is, according to city planning and zoning officials.
Mr. Carr, executive director of the Archaeological & Historical Conservancy, is already working with the developers of Metropolitan Miami, just across the street from the Dupont site, where remains have been recovered.
Typically, only a discovery of human remains could stop a development, according to Brenda Swann, acting chief of archaeological research for the state. If remains are found and discovered to be Native American, the state works with a tribe on a proper reburial, which is planned for those from the Metropolitan Miami site.
When artifacts are found, developers often help with recovery and conservation and there are minor delays in a project's timetable, said Ms. Swann.
The Miami Circle was discovered in 1998 after an apartment building was torn down to make way for a planned condominium tower. Because it was considered unique, Miami-Dade County claimed the 2.2-acre site by eminent domain and bought it from the developer for $26.7 million with funds from the state and county, private contributions and a loan.
"There was enough of a public outcry to preserve it," Ms. Swann said.
The discovery of artifacts at the Dupont site is considered likely in light of the Miami Circle find and the findings of remnants of a village in the area.
"It's a great spot today, and it was a great spot 2,000 years ago," Ms. Swann said.
Construction of Dupont Plaza, a hotel and office and retail complex near the mouth of the Miami River, began in May 1956. The building opened in March 1958. The cost of the project was $11 million, said historian Arva Moore Parks.
The building is an example of Miami Modern architecture and contains some design elements worth recognizing, she said, especially decorative tiles that cover the parking garage. Dupont's parking garage was a rarity, she said, when most Miami hotels didn't include spaces for vehicles within its structure.
"It's really ironic. ... They did a better job camouflaging [garages] in the 1950s and '60s then they do in the 1990s and 2000s," Ms. Parks said.
The construction of Dupont Plaza probably disturbed any artifacts that might have been preserved with the earth, said Mr. Carr.
"Frankly, I don't anticipate finding a great deal there," he said. "Chances are that anything there has already been removed."
Much of the earth at the site was removed and used as fill to create Coconut Grove's Kennedy Park, he said.
"That park is filled with artifacts," he said.
Two-thirds of the site was created from fill from the river and Biscayne Bay and shouldn't contain any artifacts, he said.
Mr. Carr said he does not know when the owners of the Dupont would begin vacating the building.
Miami developer Ugo Colombo of CMC Group said in April that he would consider building two towers at the Dupont Plaza site but had not decided if he would build residences or offices in addition to ground floor retail space. A CMC official earlier this week declined comment.
CMC Group and Lionstone Hotels and Resorts, a Miami hotel developer that owns the site, at 300 Biscayne Blvd. Way, reached an agreement earlier this year to jointly redevelop it.