A Great Wall Transformed
By Laurence Aurbach
Located on a central crossroads, the South Miami Metrorail
Station and parking garage are typical examples of 1970s-era transit design.
Large expanses of raw concrete front the streets, fringed with random
plantings of vegetation that attempt to soften the impact. The design
is so hostile that even local businesses regard it as a detriment to the
neighborhood. After the 1994 South Miami charrette, one hotel manager
shook his fist at the massive garage as he said, "That ... is the
Great Wall of China, separating my business from downtown South Miami."
Now, the station will undergo a complete makeover to help re-knit the
neighborhood with downtown. Hometown Station, Ltd. has won a long-term
lease to the property and has begun safety and lighting improvements to
the station garage. The next phase will add to the perimeter a six-story
commercial liner building (the Sunset Building) and a four-story live/work
liner building. The live/works will have arcaded storefronts on the ground
floor and lofts above, adding a 24-hour presence to the station area.
Dover, Kohl & Partners is the town planning firm of the project, and
the firms of Chael, Cooper & Associates and Perkins & Will are
partners on the architectural design.
Owing to the narrow allotment of existing space, the live/work units are
rotated sideways. The arrangement reduces the overall number of units,
but each one has more window area and light than a typical rowhouse. The
lofts will have balconies overlooking the street along with styling cues
that reinforce the traditional neighborhood context. Chael noted that
Hometown Station would be an extension of South Miami's eclectic, working-class
architecture. "This way," she said, "the built result will
be diverse, reflecting (as our development will be) a city built through
In front of the Sunset Building, a landscaped buffer will be replaced
by a small, usable square. In a planned later phase, an additional three-story
courtyard building will be constructed atop the garage to house either
commercial or residential uses.
The project builds on years of work and investments made by the city,
transit agency, community redevelopment agency and local residents. Dover,
Kohl has been involved with the neighborhood since 1992 as a redevelopment
planner. The broader goal of Hometown Station is to catalyze economic
benefits throughout the neighborhood and beyond. As a unified, sophisticated
TOD, it is intended to be a key piece of urban fabric reconstruction.