Real Estate

St. Jude Church's Historic Preservation Could Be Worth Millions to Brickell Developers

Tomorrow afternoon, Miami commissioners will vote whether to declare historic a 66-year-old church surrounded by skyscrapers in Brickell. For the past year, a small group of parishioners has drummed up support for officially protecting St. Jude Melkite Catholic Church. At first, the petition sounded like something you'd be asked to sign outside Whole Foods: an idea so safe even the most cynical Miamian would support it. Besides, what kind of a monster wouldn't want to save a tiny old church?

But the battle over whether to protect St. Jude's is far from simple. Church leaders oppose the idea, saying historical designation will cost them money and violate the separation of church and state. They also accuse those behind the preservation plan of lying about the church's history and secretly maneuvering to make millions off of the building's air rights.

"Our opponents are now on Radio Mambí trashing our bishop and our church," says Rev. Damon Geiger, the pastor at St. Jude. "Why? With all the dirtiness and vehemence, there is something more than just the historical designation."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.