New frontier? Developers look to Hialeah

Lennar’s Next Gen homes include a single-family unit and an apartment intended for family

From left: Alejandro Arias, Keren Marti, Avra Jain, Carolina Herrera, Luis Gonzalez, and Melissa Rose (Credit: Google Maps)
From left: Alejandro Arias, Keren Marti, Avra Jain, Carolina Herrera, Luis Gonzalez, and Melissa Rose (Credit: Brett Hufziger Photography, Google Maps)

UPDATED, Aug, 26, 8:45 a.m.: Developer Avra Jain is looking to bring back the glory days of Hialeah, a working class, predominantly Hispanic city in central Miami-Dade, just north of Miami International Airport.

Jain is planning a major adaptive re-use commercial development on about 6 acres of land in east Hialeah, she said during a panel hosted by CREW Miami at Four Seasons Hotel Miami earlier this week. Jain, who acquired the property last year, is still finalizing plans for the property, but said that it would have about 200,000 square feet of space.

Jain was joined by former Hialeah City Council president Luis Gonzale; Carolina Herrera, vice president of land acquisition of the Southeast Florida division of Lennar Homes; and moderator Alejandro Arias, associate attorney at Holland & Knight.

Development has been ramping up in Hialeah. Recently, a partnership of developers that includes Michael Wohl, Stephen A. Blumenthal and Oscar Rodriguez closed on construction financing for Pura Vida Hialeah, a 9-acre development with 260 apartment units and 51,000 square feet of retail space at 2901 to 3099 West 16th Avenue and 1571 West 29th Street.

Tenants will include a Wawa convenience store and gas station, a Taco Bell restaurant, a Dollar Tree store and a two-story YouFit Health Club.

Jain is partnering with David Martin of Terra to refurbish an aging industrial complex at 4800 Northwest 37th Avenue. The site is just north of the Hialeah Market Station and Tri-Rail/Metrorail Transfer Station, where the city recently up-zoned 300 acres to allow for more commercial and residential development. A year ago, Hialeah’s city council unanimously approved a land-use amendment that will rezone the property from industrial to transit-oriented development.

Gonzalez said a common misconception about Hialeah is that it’s overbuilt.

“If you look at Hialeah, we have no high-rises. What we have is multifamily complexes, but nothing more than five stories and they’re not all condensed,” he said.

Earlier this month, BBX Capital Real Estate and Altman Companies sold the 314-unit Altis at Bonterra apartment complex at 3645 West 98th Street in Hialeah to AvalonBay Communities for $90 million.

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Lennar has been active in the city since 2014, Herrera said. She and the other panelists touted the city’s accessibility to major highways and central location in the county as one of the reasons developers choose to invest there.

“After the downturn, we were fortunate enough to have cash in hand to buy properties from our competitors,” Herrera said. “A lot of families living in Hialeah did not have options for new homes. The city welcomed us. We came in and developed over 1,500 homes.”

Herrera added that Lennar’s Next Gen homes, which include a single-family unit and a roughly 500-square-foot apartment, are popular in Hialeah.

“Now you have abuela’s quarters, el primo, the kids coming back from college.… The intent is for them to bring in family,” she said.

The panelists said that the city government makes it easier to build than in other municipalities.

“We’re there because the leadership is supportive,” Jain, founder of the Vagabond Group. “The process is timely. In the city of Miami it can take years. In fact, we don’t even bother [with some projects].”

Entertainment will be a component of Jain’s and Terra’s project. “We think the entertainment space is lacking,” she said.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Hialeah’s location in relation to the airport.