TAMPA, Fla. — Archaeologists have detected at least 115 more "probable graves" from Zion Cemetery, the African American burial ground historians and archaeologists say was systematically erased over time.
Archaeologists from Cardno discovered the graves through ground-penetrating radar done on businessman Richard Gonzmart’s property along N. Florida Avenue.
Between property belonging to Richard Gonzmart -- who owns the Columbia Restaurant Group -- the Tampa Housing Authority and the Sunstate Wrecker Service, the total number of graves archaeologists have found from Zion Cemetery over the last few months totals about 300.
10News has reportedly extensively on forgotten graves in the area -- an issue that was first brought to light by the Tampa Bay Times.
In August, ground-penetrating radar from USF and Cardno detected about 127 graves at Robles Park Village, a public housing development owned by the Tampa Housing Authority. A subsequent scanning at Sunstate in December revealed 55 more.
Gonzmart originally had plans to develop the property into a non-profit culinary school for at-risk youth but now says he will drop plans for development so the cemetery can be preserved.
He said he is now actively seeking a land swap. A manager from the neighboring Sunstate Wrecker Service, which sits atop 55 graves from Zion Cemetery, told 10News on Monday that Sunstate is also hoping for a land swap.
The Tampa Housing Authority owns more than half of the 2.5 acres that comprise Zion. Chief operating officer Leroy Moore said he will reach out to other property owners in the next few weeks to start working on a plan.
The housing authority is already in the process of relocating about 100 people living in buildings that sit over the cemetery.
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