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Students Transform Industrial Site into Hialeah’s Own Midtown Miami

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    By Robert C. Jones Jr.
    UM News

    Chloe Pereira, a student from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, points out one of the features of her East Hialeah master plan to Xinyu He.

    Chloe Pereira, an architecture student from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, points out one of the features of her East Hialeah master plan to Xinyu He.

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 9, 2014) – When University of Miami architecture student Chloe Pereira and more than 50 of her classmates toured a 90-acre, transit-oriented site in east Hialeah last September, they quickly took note of the area’s close proximity to Miami International Airport, the historic train station that now serves as the southern terminus for the Tri-Rail commuter coach, and large tracts of land dotted by factories and warehouses.

    What they didn’t see were mom-and-pop stores, boutiques, parks, and pedestrian-friendly streets—urban design characteristics reminiscent of Midtown Miami. “But we knew the site had boundless potential,” said Pereira. So, tasked with the assignment of redesigning those 90 acres, Pereira and her classmates returned to UM’s School of Architecture, and in the weeks that followed came up with a plan for the district’s rebirth, designing mixed-use developments and beautifying streets and sidewalks while retaining some of the area’s best features. The students’ efforts were showcased December 9 when their final designs were displayed in the Irvin Korach Gallery during a capstone event that drew planning and zoning officials from the City of Hialeah and Miami-Dade County, as well as professional architects who mentored the students throughout the project.

    “We told the students to treat the site as a blank slate,” said Oscar Machado, who led the Eastside Hialeah Second-Year Design Studio. “Their designs are comprehensive and can serve as a launching point for Hialeah officials. Nothing is more powerful than a drawing to speak to others about how things can be done.”

    Students split into teams to work on the site, an industrial area bounded by State Road 112 to the south, Southeast Fifth Street to the north, the CSX railroad tracks to the east, and Southeast Ninth Court to the west. At the beginning of the semester-long initiative, they not only visited the area but also participated in planning sessions where Hialeah government officials explained their aspirations for the area.

    From left, students Corey Shapiro, Yeping Cao, Siyu Wang, and Owen Berry review final drawings of heir East Side Hialeah master plan.

    From left, students Corey Shapiro, Yeping Cao, Siyu Wang, and Owen Berry review final drawings of their East Side Hialeah master plan.

    The students’ biggest challenge: “To create something that, if you were on the train and you pulled into the Hialeah Market Station and looked around, you would say, ‘We need to go have lunch there, or I could rent an apartment there,’ ” said Professor of Architecture Joanna Lombard, part of a team of faculty members who worked with the students.

    Pereira, Xinyu He, and Natasha Moraes developed their master plan around the train station, incorporating “eyes-on-the-street” features that provide residents with scenic views.

    Zach Silver said he wanted to create an “area that’s a nice place to go on a run or walk your dog.” He and classmate Yating Yang designed market-style streets, mixed-use structures with shops on the ground floors and residential units on the upper levels, and townhouses with lake views.

    Owen Berry, Yeping Cao, Corey Shapiro, and Siyu Wang gave the area a complete makeover, designing walkable tree-lined streets, proposing a new Main Street that would highlight the train station, and including more houses and apartment buildings north of the commercial district, but limiting their designs to five or six stories to comply with FAA regulations for that area.

    For many of the students, the studio was their first experience using New Urbanism techniques. In early September, to learn more about the architectural discipline that promotes compact, mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods, they spent a weekend touring just about every corner of Seaside, the 80-acre epitome of New Urbanism located in Florida’s Panhandle and designed by former School of Architecture Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Andrés Duany.

    Transforming the 90-acre Hialeah site into an area with some of Seaside’s characteristics is one of the long-range objectives for Hialeah officials, who have already hired the Miami-based architectural firm responsible for such projects as Midtown Miami and Brooklyn’s DUMBO Heights.

    “This particular area of Hialeah could be another Midtown Miami,” explained Debora Storch, a Hialeah planning and zoning official and School of Architecture alumna who attended Tuesday’s student presentations. She said the city hopes to create a community redevelopment agency that would raise the money needed to improve area streets and sidewalks in the region, build parks, and ramp up other aspects of the infrastructure. She called the students’ designs inspiring, noting, “They often think outside the box and present ideas other people wouldn’t.”

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