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< 10pt; line-height: 12pt;text-align: left; ">Visitors drive by history when passing through Coral Gables’ MacFarlane Homestead Historic District. The cottages dotting the streets tucked along U.S. 1 bordering the West Grove once housed Bahamian natives whose ancestors built the Gables and adjacent Coconut Grove.

At a time when the rich history of the West Grove — recently renamed Little Bahamas — is being bulldozed by developers rebuilding modern, expensive houses, one Miami transplant acquired four cottages in the area with the sole purpose of restoring and preserving local Black history.

Fabio Riberio acquired the 1938 cottages at 4614 Brooker St., in July from Greater St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest Grove churches dating to the 1890s. After dropping $789,400 in cash, Riberio became the owner of the railroad-style houses. Like a railroad car, these 700-square-foot residences have a narrow corridor that runs from the front door, past the living quarters on the left side — a living room, then two bedrooms and finally a bathroom — and lead to a kitchen in the back of the house.

Having survived some of South Florida’s worst natural disasters like Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the houses remain standing — with termite damage, deteriorating roofs and blistered pillars posted on concrete porches. Where some might see a money pit, Riberio deems the cottages’ restoration his legacy project.

“Miami lacks some history,” said the investment manager. “Everything we have we’re losing very fast. The city is doing its best, but you can’t do anything alone.”

The cottages sit in the MacFarlane district, a triangular-shaped land area acquired by George Merrick, founder of the Gables, in 1925 as a segregated neighborhood for Black workers. The district has had its share of tugs of war over proposed developments over the years, including most recently a failed Wawa gas station.

Riberio plans to meet with city officials later this month to discuss his renovation plans for the four old homes. He estimated it’ll cost him $800,000 to fully restore the houses. Once he completes the work, Riberio hopes to retain the one remaining tenant and find renters for the other three cottages, saving one house for an artist in residence.

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