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VOL. 4, NO. 2 -- SPRING 2002

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 time."

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.