Monica Perez is a sophomore pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Florida International University. With that and future schooling she hopes to administer marriage and family therapy. With a secondary interest in ecopsychology, she hopes to also use elements of nature and the environment to treat certain psychological disorders. Her current motto is “seek radical empathy” as she strives to understand and share in others’ thoughts and life experiences. In exploring the unincorporated community of West Kendall, she hopes to do just that.
West Kendall, less popularly known as “West End”, is an unincorporated community in Miami Dade County that was named by the inhabitants of West Kendall themselves. This means that the area has no specific boundaries, but when people use the term “West Kendall”, they are generally referring to the communities on the west side of the turnpike: The Hammocks, Country Walk, Three Lakes, and Kendale Lakes and a few other unincorporated communities. The area is generally confused with Kendall West, which is an incorporated community with very specific boundaries.
West Kendall is a suburban area that holds mostly strip malls, homes/townhomes, and apartments. There is very little land left completely “untouched”, so it can be difficult to appreciate the naturally occurring landscape. However, the general terrain in West Kendall can be described as relatively flat (spare the occasional man-made hill).
Henry John Broughton Kendall was put in charge of the Kendall area by a private company in 1884, but the name West Kendall was not coined until recently (by the locals themselves). Because West Kendall is not necessarily census designated area and it does not have official boundaries, it can be hard to find history on West Kendall specifically. This is not to say it has “no history” or “historic value”.
As a result of the Florida Land Boom of 1926, many residents of the Kendall area left, but two Seminole camps held up until the 1940s. Since then, West Kendall has remained a busy suburbia and shopping heaven due to the influx of chain stores and smaller boutiques alike. Miami Sunset Senior High opened in September of 1978, and since then, a number of elementary, middle, and high schools have opened as well as the Miami Dade College Kendall campus. Locals have a variety of different types of schooling including public, charter, magnet, private, Montessori, and religious. Around 2015, the County Commissioner of the time, Juan Zapata, made a move to rebrand the area as “West End”. Judging by the title of my post and the opinions of most West Kendall Residents, the name has hardly caught on.
DEMOGRAPHICS AND INTERVIEW
Because West Kendall is an unincorporated community, there is no official federal demographic data provided by the Census Bureau. However, a document released by County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata (2015) shows that population grew significantly (over 20%) between 2000 and 2010, making the annual growth rate about 0.9%. This shows the increasing popularity of the West Kendall/West End area, which has its positives and negatives. An interview with West Kendall native, Olga Rivera, shows these effects from an inside perspective (**interviewee did not consent to a photograph**).
Me: How long have you lived in the West Kendall area, and how would you best describe the area to a non-native?
Olga: I have lived in West Kendall since, gosh, 1996? I would best describe the area as very safe. There isn’t really a lot of crime. It’s also a newer area compared to the rest of Miami, so you get to live in a newer house. There’s also lots of different things to do, all different types of food and people.
What are your favorite places to eat in the area?
I would say Puerto Madero; they make really good steak. All their meats are good, honestly. They also make great empanadas with all the flavors you can imagine.
What are your favorite places to hang out?
I don’t really “hang out” much anymore, but when my kids were little, I would take them to parks a lot. This area has so many parks.
What is your least favorite part about living in West Kendall, and what would you change if you had the chance?
Ugh, traffic, traffic, and TRAFFIC. There are so many people on the road all the time; I have to commute ONE HOUR in the mornings just to get my kid to school at TERRA and get to work in Doral! I would definitely add better public transportation.
Would you use public transportation if the area had better access?
Probably. I would even stop using my car it was better.
What’s your favorite part about living in West Kendall?
I love that there are so many Hispanics in the area. They are also very nice; there isn’t a lot of crime, like I said before. I know I also said this before, but it is so nice to live in a newer house. The power lines, for example, are all in the ground instead of, like, in Westchester, where the power lines are on those huge posts, and any time there’s a string wind, they lose power.
Camp Matecumbe is both a historical landmark and a “green space”. It was once a temporary processing center for “Operation Pedro Pan” which was a movement to help Cuban children entering the United States to start a new life during the early 1960s. When the Castro regime took power in Cuba, the government set up schooling programs where children would be removed from their homes and indoctrinated into the new Cuban society. To avoid this life for their children, Cuban parents sent their children to the United States and other places through “Operation Pero Pan”, where the children would be sent to live with distant family or be put in foster care. Processing centers like Camp Matecumbe were extremely important to the movement because they served as a temporary holding space while children were being set up with a living arrangement.
The camp is now a community for children and adults with special needs. It holds after school events and summer camps for children with disabilities, and has amenities including campgrounds, a fishing pier, a dog park, and water access.
Wings Over Miami Museum
The wings over Miami Museum started as a filler to the hole created by the “Weeks Air Museum”. The original owners moved their existing museum further north, and local air enthusiasts sought to build a new museum that would keep their interests alive and prevalent. Since the museum opened inside the Miami Executive Airport in 2001, the museum has been a place for military and civilian plane lovers to get their aviation fix while giving a better understanding of aircrafts to the public. Most of the museum’s collection is active, so the public can witness aircraft maintenance and flights, mostly on weekends. It is a great place for history buffs to expand their taste and interests in aircraft history and modern flight technology.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church was founded in 1985 to cater to the growing number of Catholics in the West Kendall area. This can likely be associated with the large number of Cubans that immigrated to Miami Dade through the Mariel boatlift, informally known as “marielitos”. By 1994, the Church offered so many religious classes that they decided to open a school. Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Parish School is now one of the dominant private Catholic schools in Miami Dade that offers classes from Pre-K to 8th grade.
Wild Lime Park
Wild Lime Park is another small, yet green, location in West Kendall that offers space for relaxation and community for local youth. There is a lot of open field space that can be used for picnics, a playground for children and families, and soccer fields. The park also offers an outdoor fitness area for anyone looking to exercise in the calmness of nature.
Boystown Pineland County Park
Boystown Pineland County Park is located next to Camp Matecumbe and Our Lady of Lourdes Church. It has a field area and a playground with enough space for families to enjoy each other’s company in nature. It is a natural reserve for one of Miami’s natural ecosystems: the pine rocklands, which scientists characterize as endangered. The park offers recreational spaces for hiking and water access for related activities. Though it is not the most popular site, it is located near very important landmarks and is home to some of Florida’s indigenous wildlife.
Kendall Indian Hammocks Park
Kendall Indian Hammocks Park is one of the largest parks in West Kendall. There are five shelters with a barbecue that can be rented for any festivities (I actually had my fourth birthday here). There are soccer, baseball, and softball fields that are used by the local schools. The park offers hiking paths, outdoor exercise equipment, and several playgrounds for kids. The best thing about the park is that it is home to so much native wildlife that offers shade from the harsh Miami sun. It is an area that is perfect for Miami residents because it gives them a sliver of a connection to their environmental neighbors.
Most people who live in West Kendall get around by car. Because of this, locals are always complaining about traffic. The most highly congested streets are 88th Street (or Kendall Drive), 72nd Street (or Sunset Drive), and 104th/112th Street (better known as Killian). Most locals expect to add a few minutes to their commute to account for being completely stopped in traffic; however, the time of day DRASTICALLY affects the traffic on the road. There are a few Miami Dade Metrobus stops that are always occupied, but many inhabitants feel that they cannot “trust” public transportation or feel that it will take far too long to reach their destination. With the amount of people who call West Kendall
El Rancho Grande
El Rancho Grande is a Mexican restaurant located in the Kendall Corners strip mall. Though it may not be the most affordable selection, the quality of the food is worth the price. It is has trendy décor that caters to a young adult crowd, but a daytime visit is sure to be family friendly. It started as a family-owned business until the restaurant grew and opened another location in Miami Beach. Because Mexican food is so versatile, they can easily make most dishes vegetarian by requesting vegetables instead of meat. My personal menu highlights are their guacamole, lemonades, and burritos.
Located right next door to El Rancho Grande, Puerto Madero is an Argentinian restaurant for people looking for something heartier. It Is also a bakery and butcher counter, so guests can shop the very same foods they are eating to make them at home. Locals describe the food as delicious and, more importantly, authentic. Some menu highlights are, of course, their steaks and their baked empanadas (I have been eating them since I was little, and I cannot get enough!)
Killian Café and Grill Another pricy spot is Killian Café and Grill, which is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner. Their hook is that they “serve everything, all day”. Though this may be an ambitious statement, they hold up their end of the bargain. Some notable items from their menu are their home fries, biscuits and gravy, and their waffles. Many local families note that they include this restaurant in their yearly traditions (ex: brunch after thanksgiving or on Christmas day).
Kendall Ice Arena
The Kendall Ice Arena has long been a place for birthday parties, big celebrations, or even just recreational skating. The arena was established in 2000, and they have been holding events ever since. The arena offers public skating, family nights, hockey and figure skating lessons, and hosts hockey games. It is open seven days a week (excluding certain holidays), so locals and tourists alike can escape the sun year-round.
The Harmony Store
The Harmony Store is one of a few metaphysical shops in the Kendall area. Established in 2018, the store is family-owned, one stop shop for one’s many metaphysical needs. They sell crystals, cleansing agents like sage and palo santo, tarot cards, informational books, and much more. With a wide selection of products that are not only spiritually significant, but beautiful to look at, there is certainly something for everyone.
Danceworks of Miami
Established in 1982, Danceworks of Miami is one of many dance studios that offer classes for people from ages 3 to 18. The studio may be small in square footage, but they offer a wide variety of dance classes and give performances with explosive energy. The studio also offers dance-centered summer camps for kids who want to stay creatively and physically active in the summertime. They are located in The Crossings Shopping Village.
West Kendall is an area that not too many locals tend to appreciate. Many complain that it is boring, mundane, or that there is “nothing to do”. Hopefully, this post proves them wrong. Sure, the night scene is not very lively; there are not many bars or clubs, but that is what makes West Kendall the family-friendly, suburbia it is. Like any city or community, the area has some parts that work, and some that do not.
Something West Kendall has that not many other communities do is comfort. The area is not loud or dangerous; people generally feel safe. It is also home to some beautiful green spaces, diverse family-owned businesses, and restaurants with food from around the globe. Its simplicities are charming and contribute to the family-friendliness. It also has some spots that are historically and culturally significant, like Camp Matecumbe. It is undeniable that the transportation in the area needs some work. While the system works, many do not feel comfortable or safe using public transportation services. They worry about its reliability and feel that they have little access to the services that are offered.