Christian Gonzalez: Dadeland 2021


STUDENT BIO

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Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Christian Gonzalez is an FIU student and active member of the FIU Honors College. Born and raised in Miami, his passions lie at the intersections of art, nature, and technology. Christian is a junior seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is currently majoring in Finance.

GEOGRAPHY

Step off the plane at Miami International Airport and onto the Miami Metrorail. Or hop on at Government Center, Hialeah, or Brickell station. It doesn’t matter. If you were to take the Metrorail as far South as it will go, you will eventually arrive in Dadeland.

Image from Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Surrounded on most sides by suburban communities like Pinecrest, Kendall, and Glenvar Heights, Dadeland is located just 10 miles South of Downtown Miami. Its epicenter can be found at the intersection of US-1 and Kendall Drive. US-1, of course, is one of the country’s oldest highways connecting the East Coast of the US, and Kendall Drive was once described as the Champs-Élysées of South Miami-Dade by the Miami Herald.[1]

View of Downtown Miami from the roof of Dadeland Station.
Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Dadeland is a location that would be classified as an edge city by an urban planner or residential surveyor.[2] Like a smaller city within another city’s metropolitan area, Dadeland’s residential towers, cosmopolitan malls, and commercial skyscrapers represent the bulwark of Miami’s southward metropolitan expansion.

History

It can be said that the two most important events in the history of Dadeland were the construction of the Palmetto Expressway and the Dadeland Mall. Prior to the completion of these projects, Dadeland was described as a desolate area. In 1960, the highway was completed with its southernmost exit providing an offramp onto US1 in Dadeland and allowing a much higher volume of traffic to flow into the area than was previously possible.[3]  The subsequent residential boom and suburban expansion surrounding Dadeland can be attributed to this event and the 1962 completion of the Dadeland Mall.

Image from Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Describing the history of Dadeland without mentioning the Dadeland Mall would be unconscionable. In fact, the top result on Google when searching the term “Dadeland” often yields the Dadeland Mall. In the 1960s, after its completion, it was the largest shopping mall in the Miami metro area. In 1979, the mall became the site of the infamous Cocaine Cowboys shooting spree that killed two men, later identified as a Colombian cocaine trafficker and his bodyguard.[4] The Dadeland skyline, for about 60 years, was  marked by the mall’s concrete tower. Topped with a giant letter-D, this landmark stood as a unique presence observable from both the Palmetto Expressway and Kendall Drive, existing since the completion of the mall.[5] However, in the past year, a new marker for Dadeland Mall has been erected replacing the mall’s original iconic tower. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The Metrorail expansion which connected Downtown Miami to Dadeland was completed in 1984. In 1987, American author and journalist Joan Didion described taking the newly constructed Metrorail down to the mall: “On my first visits to Miami the gleaming new Metrorail cars glided empty down to the Dadeland Mall and back, ghost trains above the jammed traffic on the South Dixie Highway. When I returned a few months later service had already been cut back, and the billion-dollar Metrorail ran only until early evening.”[6]

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

In the 1990s and beyond, the Dadeland area experienced a large development boom of high-rise residential and office complexes made possible by unique zoning laws that allowed for high-density development in the area specifically between US-1 and the Palmetto Expressway. These regulations, along with the connection to the Miami Metrorail and access to nearby highway infrastructure is what contributes to Dadeland’s classification as an edge city.

DEMOGRAPHICS

Because Dadeland is not a census-designated place, it is not easy to obtain accurate statistics for demographic data. The Southern portion of Dadeland, including Dadeland Mall, the Dadeland South Metrorail station, and the Datran center, is located within the 33156 zip code which also encompasses the Pinecrest suburban neighborhood. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Overall, the Dadeland district’s residents are described as highly educated and composed of “renters by choice”. Rent, however, in Dadeland is not cheap. The average household income within Dadeland’s 33156 zip code is $186,198 and the median household income is $115,967.[7] These figures contribute to the Dadeland neighborhood’s exclusive and high-end price range, when viewed in comparison to Miami-Dade county’s median household income of $51,347.[8]

Dadeland’s population is listed at 31,599 according to 2010 census data, with an estimated 33,734 residents in 2020 and a projection of 34,617 residents by 2025. Regarding employment, Dadeland  is dominated overwhelmingly by the Finance, Insurance, Real Estate & Services industry. Approximately 69.1% of jobs available in Dadeland are in this industry, with another 8.8% employed in retail trade. 95.0% of employment by occupation can be described as white collar jobs, whereas 5.0% are blue collar. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

In an attempt to interview residents of Dadeland, I travelled to Dadeland Center. My goal was to discover the purpose behind the wireframe installation at the top of one of Dadeland’s iconic buildings, at 9155 S Dadeland Blvd. The dome of this building is instantly recognizable to residents of the nearby area and highly representative of the skyline of Datran, resembling something like an upside-down diamond. I suspected it had some functional purpose, but I wasn’t sure. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The first person I stopped to ask, a man riding his bike outside of Dadeland Center, wasn’t sure about the installation’s purpose. I asked a woman carrying groceries away from the Publix across the street. Although she was quite polite, she didn’t know what the story behind it was either. 

After some persistence, I was able to ask a security guard who worked at the Dadeland Center building about the purpose of the wireframe structure on top of the building. Preferring to remain anonymous, he claimed the diamond-shaped structure was an attempt to hide or obfuscate the building’s large HVAC system on its roof. I asked how long he’s worked at Dadeland Center, and he told me that he started this new job for a security contracting agency a few months before the pandemic began in 2020 and that he gets assigned to work at Dadeland every once in a while. I asked for his thoughts about this neighborhood. He said he appreciates how it’s mostly clean and quiet, and he also appreciates how convenient and accessible it is thanks to the Metrorail and bus terminal just a few blocks away.

LANDMARKS

Dadeland Mall

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Dadeland Mall is easily accessible from the Dadeland South Metrorail station by foot. It is the commercial and cultural center of the Dadeland district, offering a multitude of stores and services. This 535,000 square-foot mall is home to hotels, restaurants, a food court, fashion outlets, furniture retailers, large department stores including Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, JCPenny, and more. The Macy’s department store located in Dadeland Mall is also Macy’s flagship Florida store, the largest Macy’s outlet in the state. 

Downtown Dadeland

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

South of the Dadeland Mall, across Kendall Drive, you can find a small but welcoming chic stretch of restaurants, retail stores, outlets, and condominiums that make up the walkable and inviting area of Downtown Dadeland. Also adjacent to the Dadeland South Metrorail station, many of Dadeland’s condos and hotels can be found here. The pedestrian-friendly road of SW 72nd Place here in the Downtown Dadeland area is a popular spot for nightlife and recreation that stands apart from the much busier stretch of commercial strip malls and highways. A Publix supermarket is also tucked away here in this part of the town, which provides convenient access to groceries and general goods for residents of the area.

Dadeland Station

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Another commercial shopping center in the Dadeland area is Dadeland Station. This smaller mall accessible from the Dadeland North Metrorail station is home to several large stores and retail outlets such as Best Buy, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Michaels. A small assortment of restaurants and cafes can also be found here, and it is a convenient spot for residents who live in the North portion of Dadeland to visit.

GREENSPACES

Dadeland Dog Park 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Due to the small size of Dadeland and its commercial designation, there are no formal parks or green spaces that are available to residents within the immediate Dadeland area. The one exception is Dadeland Dog Park. This compact and well-maintained patch of Dadeland is perfect for kids and dog owners to congregate when going out for a walk. Mainly servicing the nearby condominiums and apartments, this area includes a fenced-in play space for dogs to roam without a leash as well as a nearby playground for kids on the opposite end of the park.

Coral Pine Park

A few blocks South of Dadeland, in the adjacent Pinecrest neighborhood, you can find Coral Pine Park. This nine acre property is home to a large open field and natural area. You can find a playground for children, a recreation center, and tennis courts as well at this park.

Flagler Grove Park

Also located in the Pinecrest area, South of Dadeland, is Flagler Grove Park. This three acre park offers a playground, restrooms, and a soccer field. It is easily reachable from US-1, just a block away from the South Dixie Highway on SW 104th Street.

TRANSPORTATION

As previously mentioned, one highlight of the Dadeland area is its accessibility by Metrorail. Dadeland boasts two Metrorail stations, Dadeland North and Dadeland South. As the Southern end of Miami’s Metrorail line, Dadeland South is the busier station. The Dadeland South station also houses a large parking garage and a bus terminal for easy access to the surrounding suburban neighborhoods.

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Transportation by car is not an issue in Dadeland. There are sufficient parking garages located at the Dadeland Metrorail stations, the Dadeland Mall, as well as wide sprawling parking lots in the nearby strip malls and at the Dadeland Publix. Because of the relatively small size of Dadeland, most of the district is also walkable. The triangular area that is sandwiched in between the Palmetto Expressway and US-1 is pedestrian-friendly when compared to other walkable areas in United States cities.

FOOD

Roasters ‘N Toasters

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Roasters ‘N Toasters has been a staple in the area since 1984. Their original location can be found on US-1 across from the Dadeland South Metrorail station. Roasters is an example of a classic New York deli, serving bagels, coffee, sandwiches, and breakfast all day. Their menu is extensive, and everything on it is top-notch. If you’re looking for something sweet, I recommend trying the Nutella French Toast made with slices of thick-cut challah bread. For something savory, I recommend the Rachel pastrami sandwich with a side of potato Latkes.

Ghee Indian Kitchen

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Located on SW 72nd Place, in the trendy heart of Downtown Dadeland, this restaurant serves authentic Indian cuisine with a contemporary spin. The brainchild of Chef Niven Patel, Ghee is an extraordinary find for lovers of Indian food in Miami. The small menu at Ghee demonstrates a focus on quality over quantity. For those who aren’t afraid of a little spice, the Ghost Pepper Cheddar Naan is to die for. I can also recommend the Short Rib Dosa and the Vegetable Samosas, if they happen to be available.

Apizza Brooklyn

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

The best Italian food in the area, Apizza Brooklyn is also located on US-1 across from the Dadeland South Metrorail station in the same business complex as Roasters. This Brooklyn-inspired Italian fare is a must try, offering pastas, salads, pizzas, fish, wine, desert, and a wide variety of high-quality dishes. Their brick-oven pizzas are a must try. My personal favorite is the Da Bomb pizza, but even their simple plain Cheese Pizza is outstanding thanks to a high degree of craftsmanship and quality ingredients. If you’re not on a diet, I can also recommend the Fried Mozzarella served with a marinara sauce that is out-of-this-world delicious.

BUSINESSES 

Empire Social Lounge

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Looking for a place to enjoy an authentic Cuban Cigar in South Miami-Dade? Well keep looking, because they are still illegal to purchase as of 2021.[9] However, if you’re looking for the next best thing, Empire Social Lounge is the place to go. A unique business in Downtown Dadeland, located on Dadeland Boulevard, this cigar lounge offers a sophisticated experience for purchasing cigars and sipping whiskey in the trendy Downtown Dadeland neighborhood. Please note, smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer according to the CDC.[10]

Dadeland Animal Hospital

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Dadeland Animal Hospital is an experienced veterinary clinic for dogs, cats, small mammals, and other pets in the local area. They are compassionate here and love taking care of pets, offering a wide variety of services including preventive care, diagnostic tests, surgeries, emergency services, vaccinations, and boarding. I take my dog, Ripley, here. 

Tattoos by Lou

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Tattoos by Lou! Are you looking for a tattoo? Tattoos by Lou is the place to go in Dadeland. Offering tattoo and piercing services since the 1980s, Tattoos by Lou has friendly and helpful staff and professional tattoo artists ready to accommodate your needs. Founded by Lou Sciberras, Lou’s has consistently provided the foundation of excellence in tattoo artistry and helped establish Miami as a world famous city for tattoos and tattoo artistry.[11] You can find them at the shopping center on US-1 and SW 98th Street, near the Palmetto Expressway exit. 

SUMMARY

A highly commercial neighborhood, what Dadeland lacks in parks and green areas it makes up for with its wide variety of malls, restaurants, services, and businesses. It’s not a perfect place. Chiefly, it is prohibitively expensive for most residents of Miami to live in, although housing is much cheaper in nearby neighborhoods. For those that are fortunate enough to live or work in the Dadeland area, the convenience of having a Metrorail station within walking distance cannot be understated. 

Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

I have lived nearby Dadeland in the Kendall area for most of my life. Although many tourists who come visit Miami will never see Dadeland, to those of us who live here it is iconic. We pass by it anytime we take the Palmetto Expressway northward to downtown. The skyline of the Dadeland Center and Dadeland Mall is something that people in this area recognize and can relate to as common landmarks of their hometown. 

Sunset on the Palmetto Expressway at Dadeland
Photograph by Christian Gonzalez / CC by 4.0

Over 100 years ago, the development of modern Miami began, as construction and expansion has continued ever since. The high-rise towers, condominiums, and office buildings that makeup the Miami landscape stretch far down South, dotting up and down US-1 along the Metrorail tracks reaching all the way to Dadeland. Dadeland remains today the southernmost point on Miami’s Metrorail line. Dadeland is among the densest commercial and residential zones South of downtown, and, as of 2021, Dadeland stands as the Southern terminus of Miami’s urban sprawl.

CITATIONS

  1. Ogle, Connie. Kendall Is the Paris of Miami. Miami Herald, https://www.miamiherald.com/miami-com/funny-stories/article231673798.html. 
  2. “Edge City.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Dec. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edge_city. 
  3. “Dadeland.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Dec. 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadeland. 
  4. Hamacher, Brian. “’Dadeland Mall Massacre’: Thursday Marks 40th Anniversary of Infamous ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ Shootout.” NBC 6 South Florida, NBC 6 South Florida, 12 July 2019, https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/dadeland-mall-massacre-thursday-marks-40th-anniversary-of-cocaine-cowboys-shootout/127956/. 
  5. “Dadeland Mall.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Aug. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dadeland_Mall. 
  6. Didion, Joan. Miami. Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1987. 
  7. “Dadeland.” ArcGIS StoryMaps, Esri, 30 Mar. 2021, https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/69c538c445c24bc5bcf89c91df7d4b4d. 
  8. U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: Miami-Dade County, Florida. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/miamidadecountyflorida/POP060210. 
  9. Carter, Adam, and Adam Carter. “Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal? [Updated for 2021].” Cigar Hombre, 3 Feb. 2021, https://cigarhombre.com/why-are-cuban-cigars-illegal/. 
  10. “What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Oct. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm. 
  11. Tattoos by Lou . https://www.tattoosbylou.com/lou.

Author: Christian Gonzalez

FIU Class of 2023, Finance Major

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