For 32 years, Olga Lorenzo has called Hialeah Gardens home.
But for many longtime residents like Lorenzo, growth is coming with a price. In the last couple years, a large number of new businesses have moved in, worsening the city’s traffic problems.
“This all used to be empty plots of land when I first came here,” said Lorenzo, 80. Back in the 1980s, “there were actually more cows than people. Now that’s all changed.”
The city experienced a growth spurt in the 1960s, when many large subdivisions were built. Now the city is having another growth spurt, this time taking the form of new retail stores and warehouses.
New arrivals include the grocery chain Aldi, clothing stores like Discovery and Ross, restaurants like Pollo Tropical, and the gym Planet Fitness.
Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset de la Cruz foresees an investment of at least $60 million in 2014 for the city with private capital expecting to generate more than 600 new jobs, which he anticipates will have a favorable impact on the community.
But new businesses also can have an unfavorable effect on traffic.
Magaly Martinez has been living in Hialeah gardens now for 17 years. She, like Lorenzo has noticed the abrupt change in the community.
“Everywhere I look, there is construction going on. It’s so ugly and I fear that when after these projects are done, the amount of trucks and traffic that will be coming through here will really become an unfixable problem,” said Martinez, 43.
Most of the new businesses are on Hialeah Gardens Boulevard, a major four-lane roadway shared by Hialeah Gardens residents and truckers headed to and from nearby warehouses.
Diana Fuentes has mixed feelings about the new development in her city. Having been born and raised in Hialeah Gardens, she says that while she knows more development is good for the city, she has concerns of how this contribute to the current congestion issues caused by trucks and large vehicles.
“I understand that space is limited, but they try to cover every piece of green grass into a building,” said Fuentes, 22. “I can barely get out of the neighborhood because of all the trucks passing through here. It’s always been a problem even before the construction.”
Even nonresidents notice the changing dynamics in the city.
Miami Lakes resident Stephen Bueno frequents Hialeah Gardens regularly to visit his family. He also notices the traffic and congestion.
“The amount of trucks that come onto this two-lane street is ridiculous. Sometimes I’m stuck in traffic for 20 or 30 minutes more than usual in a residential area,” said Bueno, 20. “Not to mention that there are schools nearby, which adds insult to injury to the traffic issue. It’s just so out-of-place.”
Rolando “Roly” Piña, vice chairman of the Hialeah Gardens City Council. has been a resident of Hialeah Gardens for 21 years.
“It is the first that I have heard of these complaints,” said Piña, 51. “We try to make the residents happy and we take traffic patterns, congestion issues and any other problems into account.”
And some residents are happy.
Resident Alexander Cordoves is happy that the city is growing and has more convenient retail stores so close to his home, which is located 1.4 miles away from the new Walmart Neighborhood Market.
“It’s so convenient. I don’t have to drive so far now to get to where I want to go,” said Cordoves, 18. “There’s really nothing left to do but adapt to these changes.”