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Front Page » Top Stories » Hialeah Moves To Promote Mixeduse Development

Hialeah Moves To Promote Mixeduse Development

Written by on March 8, 2007

By Eric Kalis
Hialeah, known for its mom-and-pop businesses and small shopping centers, could come to resemble downtown Miami after the City Council approved creation of five business districts to promote mixed-use development.

Council members, by a 5-1 vote, accepted recommendations from urban planner Jaime Correa to establish five business districts throughout the city. Mr. Correa was hired last year to examine what sections of Hialeah could be redeveloped with mixed-use complexes without encroaching on residential neighborhoods, Mayor Julio Robaina said Monday.

The city’s zoning code allows for commercial, industrial or medium-density areas to be re-zoned, the mayor said.

In the five business districts, property owners will be able to combine residential, office and retail components in one complex, Mr. Robaina said. Some portions of the city that had height limits of four to five stories will be zoned to allow eight or nine, he said. Developers will be required to incorporate affordable housing into mixed-use projects, he said.

"My vision is to maintain the city’s tradition while encouraging redevelopment and new businesses," Mr. Robaina said. "Those who remodel their properties can now build commercial space with residential units on top. There will also be affordable-housing opportunities."

Cindy Miel was the only council member to vote against the plan, which came before the council last month. She cited complaints from residents who were not aware of the ramifications of the business districts. While proponents of the rezoning say the plan is sensitive to surrounding neighborhoods, Ms. Miel said allowing taller buildings around residential areas is cause for concern.

"I am not against redevelopment," Ms. Miel said. But "I do not like the fact that some areas next to residential properties could go as high as eight or nine stories."

While Hialeah Park, home of the historic Hialeah Race Track, is not included in the five business districts, local activist Alex Fuentes, founder of Citizens of South Florida for the Preservation of Hialeah Race Track, said allowing mixed-use development up to nine stories nearby could infringe on the race track and eventually lead to redevelopment there. Two of the districts, East Fourth Avenue and Palm Avenue, border the park.

The race track, portions of which are listed in the National Historic Registry, was closed to racing in 2001. It has been used in recent years for weddings, conventions and other events, Mr. Fuentes said.

"My issue is mainly the impact on the park itself," he said. "The tallest building currently around the park is four stories."

The ordinance to create the business districts states that any development of the race track would be considered on its own because of the historic designation, Mr. Robaina said. "We put in the ordinance that under no circumstances would this apply to the race track," he said. "If we can race again there, that would be my No. 1 choice. My No. 2 choice would be to create a Central Park for the city."