Work can continue on Tampa project where graves were found

Archeologists say work can resume on a downtown Tampa development site where several suspected gravesites were found last year. The grave shafts were found on part of the Water Street development project in downtown Tampa. Since that discovery was made in August, developers had been quiet about the work being done to identify and eventually relocate those remains. But on Thursday, Tampa City Council members received a lengthy report giving them the latest information about the site being developed by Jeff Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners, or SPP. The council was presented a report including a letter from archaeologists who said the remains appear to be from the Fort Brooke era in the 1830s to 1840s. There was no indication, they said, that the graves were from African American settlements that came decades later. An SPP spokesperson would not say whether the remains included those of any Native Americans, only that parties with interest had been contacted. They also did not specify how many graves were found. But they are satisfied there are no significant deposits remaining on what they call the Estuary Cemetery. Archeologists recommend work be allowed to continue, and although they did not offer a specific time frame, developers said that would occur soon. Some of Tampa’s more-recently elected council members had expressed frustration they weren’t getting updates on the sensitive excavation and relocation process. Steven Michelini is a private consultant now, but nearly 40 years ago he was working for the city of Tampa when they also had to delay construction of what is now the Fort Brooke parking garage. They found and relocated 144 graves back then, he said. Those included soldiers, children and Seminole Indians. “It was all done appropriately and very respectfully,” said Michelini. On that project, work was halted for about six months.
Published: 5:43 PM EDT July 18, 2019
Updated: 5:42 PM EDT July 18, 2019