Miami Circle plans move ahead as public input rolls in
By Risa Polansky
Brickell's Miami Circle site, now officially managed by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, should be open to the public by spring of next year, President and Chief Executive Officer Robert McCammon says.
The circle itself, however, is to remain out of sight — at least for the short term.
The museum last month signed a 44-year sublease with the Florida Department of State to control the prehistoric site and is moving forward to create access.
"Future plans for the Miami Circle include an urban park open space for residents and tourists alike," Mr. McCammon wrote in an e-mail update to local elected officials. "Visitors will have unrestricted access to the site, which will include an eight-foot model, panoramic mural, interpretative panels, native plants, benches and parking."
The circle has been inaccessible as Icon Brickell, a Related Group condo project, has risen adjacent to the site.
Building work is to be completed in time for a 2009 circle opening, Mr. McCammon said.
Construction on the neighboring seawall and bay walk this fall could "complicate" the process, he said, but he hopes the site will be "open to the public in general" within a year.
Limited, museum-sponsored tours of the site of the circle, likely a remnant of the Tequesta people, could begin within a few months, he said
Still, he wrote to Miami and Miami-Dade County commissioners, "The site itself will remain buried to ensure its historic preservation."
A limestone coating covers the 2,000-year-old artifact, protecting and preserving it but hiding it from view.
"Our intention, long term, is to have it exposed and open for the public to view and enjoy," Mr. McCammon said in an interview.
But because of the local climate — "high humidity, hurricane threat" — "it's a matter of uncovering and protecting it in a safe environmental manner," he said.
Which would take time and money.
"Our plan is to figure out a way to do it," Mr. McCammon said, noting it's been done for archaeological artifacts in places such as Israel.
But for now, "we haven't even started to look at that," he said, and he could not set a timetable for uncovering the relic.
The museum's planned displays should give insight into the hidden circle, and "active recreational and educational opportunities will also be offered, including regular, scheduled guided tours and special events," Mr. McCammon wrote.
Costs should begin at about $600,000 and could rise to about $4 million, he said, though it's too soon to tell.
The state and county bought the site for nearly $27 million in 1999.
At a meeting this week of the county's Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee, Commissioner Katy Sorenson praised all involved for preservation efforts, a main goal when the circle was discovered almost 10 years ago.
The National Park Service recently released a study of the circle that included suggestions for its exhibition and a survey soliciting opinion on the long-inaccessible site's future.
As the park service collects responses, the museum is moving ahead with its own plans, Mr. McCammon said.