Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: UM architecture students present new vision for Hialeah industrial site

University of Miami Architecture students Chloe Pereira and Xinyu He look over features of their redesigned Hialeah industrial site.
University of Miami Architecture students Chloe Pereira and Xinyu He look over features of their redesigned Hialeah industrial site.

Last September, more than 50 University of Miami architecture students began an assignment to re-envision a new area of Hialeah. They toured and studied a 90-acre tract that included an historic train station and large parcels of land with mostly factories and warehouses.

And they wondered: Where were the boutiques, parks, pedestrian-friendly streets and mom-and-pop shops?

The students were given the task to see the area with fresh eyes and they spent the semester coming up with plans for the district’s rebirth.

“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.”

The final designs were displayed recently in the UM’s Irvin Korach Gallery during an event that drew planning and zoning officials from the city of Hialeah and Miami-Dade County. Also there were professional architects who mentored the students.

In teams, the students transformed the site 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 into visions of an urban hotspot reminiscent of Midtown Miami.

Along the way they attended planning sessions with Hialeah government officials and spent a weekend touring Seaside, the 80-acre epitome of New Urbanism in Florida’s Panhandle that was designed by former School of Architecture Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Andrés Duany.

Their biggest challenge was “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 architecture Professor Joanna Lombard, part of a team of faculty members who worked with the students.

Chloe Pereira, Xinyu He, and Natasha Moraes were inspired by the train station and developed their plan around it. Zach Silver 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.”

Students Owen Berry, Yeping Cao, Corey Shapiro and Siyu Wang completely redesigned the area with tree-lined streets, a new Main Street to highlight the train station, and more houses and limited-story apartment buildings north of the commercial district.

“This particular area of Hialeah could be another Midtown Miami,” said Debora Storch, a Hialeah planning and zoning official and School of Architecture alumnae who attended the student presentations. She called the students’ designs inspiring.

“They often think outside the box and present ideas other people wouldn’t,” she said.

Beyond the embers

Waving Hands, a nonprofit organization, will present Beyond the Embers, a PG-rated movie done in American Sign Language with English captioning, at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., Jan. 15 at Goodlet Park Theatre, 4200 W. 8th Ave., Hialeah.

The group has a mission to make aware and educate everyone about the deaf community and deaf culture. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to see the film. Tickets for the 10 a.m. showing must be purchased in advance as there is limited seating. Tickets for the 7 p.m. showing may be purchased at the door if the event is not sold out.

Waving Hands benefits deaf and hard of hearing children and youth in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It strives “to become a recognized leader in the community in organizing, planning and advocating for a sustainable, independent and healthy quality of life for those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing and those who share their lives with them.”

Other events include free ASL story days and an annual Picnic for Deaf Families. For more, email and visit Contact numbers are 786-505-7926 (voice) and 786-350-1030 (video phone).

Ticket price for Beyond the Embers is $11 and proceeds will go toward Waving Hands. Purchase by sending a money order or check to: Waving Hands, P.O. 440996, Miami, FL 33144.

Toy drive

On Dec. 15, Amigos For Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect, held its 23rd annual Holiday Toy Drive and partnered for the seventh year with the Ford Motor Company Fund to spread cheer to underprivileged children.

In keeping with tradition, the gift-giving program helped fulfill gift “Wish Lists” for the children with a daylong caravan featuring Santa Claus, local leaders, and volunteers, making stops in Florida City and Little Havana. Over 300 Amigos volunteers joined the organization to collect, organize and distribute toys and gift cards.

Davis Vision also participated in the festivities and provided on-site eye screenings to over 120 students to check for vision impairments. The screenings were part of Davis Vision’s Focus on America “Kids First” program which helps children with vision issues get exams at a local Visionworks as well as eyeglasses, if needed, for free.

Community leaders and celebrity helpers included Ana Maria Canseco, Jessica Cerezo, Gabriel Coronel, Felix de Bedout, Lili Estefan, state Sen. Anitere Flores, Greidys Gil, Carolina Gomez, Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez, Aleyda Ortiz, Gabriela Rivero, Carolina Sandoval, Catherine Siachoque, Karent Sierra, Gabriel Valenzuela and Felipe Viel.

“Throughout the year, we focus on the harsh reality of our mission of child abuse prevention and awareness,” said Rosa Maria Plasencia, president and CEO of Amigos For Kids, in a release. “However, with our Holiday Toy Drive we get to experience the happiness and magic of Christmas.”

New neighbors

Start the New Year with music at the next gathering of the New Neighbors Club of South Dade. The Nightingales will present well-known songs in a variety show for members and guests of this community group with a reception starting at 11 a.m., followed by lunch and the program at 11:30 a.m., Jan. 14, at the Killian Palms Country Club 9950 SW 104th St.

Cost of the lunch is $26 per person. Reservations are required and the deadline is 6 p.m. Jan. 8. Send email to or call 305-595-0213.

New Neighbors member Sharon Abramson, a graduate of Florida International University’s School of Music, will lead the Nightingales. For more about the monthly activities of New Neighbors Club of South Dade check out The club is open to all residents of Miami-Dade County who are looking to make new friends in a fun and welcoming atmosphere.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at