Chef Adrianne Calvo prepares a dish in her Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar in West Kendall.
BY ANA VECIANA SUAREZ
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This is the latest installment of an occasional series called Where We Live, highlighting South Florida neighborhoods. Previous stories have visited North Beach, Redland, Pembroke Pines and the Miami River district.
Go west, developers told Miamians yearning for bigger yards and affordable homes. And so they did — in droves.
In 30 years West Kendall sprouted from farmland to sprawling suburbia, a gridded neighborhood where you can sip a cafecito at any mom and pop cafeteria, chow down on lomo saltado in one of its many Peruvian restaurants, lace up skates at the Kendall Ice Arena, picnic at Hammocks Community Park, watch private planes land at Miami Executive Airport and — much to the consternation of residents — sit in snarled traffic for hours. You would never know there was once very little in the way of amenities.
“When I moved [in 1977], you could speed west on Kendall Drive after the turnpike and not see any traffic,” recalls Michael Rosenberg, president of the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations. “I’m not even sure of the traffic lights, and Town & Country [the mall at Kendall Drive and 117th Avenue] was a tomato field.”
Today the area, bounded by Florida’s Turnpike to the east and Krome Avenue to the west, Miller Drive (Southwest 56th Street ) in the north and Coral Reef Drive (Southwest 152nd Street) in the south, is home to hundreds of thousands of people and their cars. Shopping centers line the main drags, which, in turn, are populated with nail salons, tattoo parlors, barbershops, storefront eateries and small ethnic groceries. Residential developments, both multi-family and single-family, bear optimistic names: Lakes of the Meadow, Deer Creek, Country Walk, Three Lakes, Walden Pond. West Kendall even has its own hospital now, West Kendall Baptist, at Southwest 162nd Avenue and 96th Street.
But there are still traces of its rural past, remnants that jar a visitor who has never been there. Drive along Miller or Sunset drives, before reaching Southwest 127th Avenue, and you might come upon a rider on horseback. This is Horse Country, a square-mile area in the northeastern part of West Kendall where large homes often come with stalls, barns and groom quarters.
Heading farther west, past tiled-roof homes and squat apartment buildings, past churches, private schools and the occasional plant nursery, the pilings and trusses of construction border the increasingly sporadic crop field. New development along Kendall Drive, the area’s unofficial main street, stretches almost to Krome Avenue.
Kendall can trace its name to 1883, when a group of Englishmen bought four million acres (about half of the land between North Kendall Drive and Southwest 104th Street) from the state of Florida. One of the trustees of the Florida Land and Mortgage Company was a London merchant named Henry John Broughton Kendall. Decades would pass before the area saw development.
Author Laura Pincus, who researched and wrote a book about Baptist Hospital, said Dadeland Mall was called Deadland when it opened in 1962. Photos of hospital construction at Kendall Drive and Southwest 89th Avenue, in what people now call East Kendall, showed “Baptist surrounded by fields. That’s all there was out there. It was once considered the boondocks.”
After the widening of Kendall Drive in the mid-1960s, development tiptoed in, but the westward rush didn’t begin until the early 1980s when “it just went crazy,” according to longtime resident Rosenberg.
Historian Paul George notes that people were motivated to move that far west because the homes were new and the prices affordable. “People wanted the American Dream, and West Kendall was where they could buy it,” he says.
Developers lured them with gimmicks and prizes. A November 1985 Miami Herald article reported how Genstar Southern Development, which was then developing the 1,100-acre community of The Hammocks, was giving away University of Miami football tickets to those who toured the models. Hampshire Homes, a development of two-story Cape Cod-style homes off Southwest 117th Avenue, was holding a drawing for a wide-screen TV among prospective buyers.
PEOPLE WANTED THE AMERICAN DREAM, AND WEST KENDALL WAS WHERE THEY COULD BUY IT.
Historian Paul George
So many years later new construction and comparatively reasonable prices continue to attract young families, though residents repeatedly say they hate their commute east. A recent kerfuffle over renaming the area West End has also angered some who feel that such a change might cut all ties with history.
The neighborhood is cross-stitched with parks, from the easternmost Kendall Soccer Park on 127th Avenue, popular with futbol aficionados, to the picnic-friendly Hammocks Community Park on Hammocks Boulevard. Predominantly Hispanic, with a diverse mix of Colombians, Cubans, Peruvians and other Latin Americans, “it is truly a microcosm of the county,” George said. Its restaurants reflect that, and that’s good news for chain-happy West Kendall.
Chef and cookbook author Adrianne Calvo grew up in the area and nine years ago opened her restaurant, Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar, in a mustard-color strip shopping center on Southwest 147th Avenue. Why so far from culinary chic?
“I was familiar with the area — and I was 22 years old,” she recalled, with a laugh.
Though some thought a fine-dining experience belonged somewhere else, Calvo proved that people are willing to drive for good food. Her customers come “from everywhere, Aventura, Palmetto Bay, Coral Springs, and locals, too.” Residents repeatedly cited Chef Adrianne’s as the go-to place for special occasions.
West Kendall may not have the cachet of some of its easternmost neighbors, Pinecrest, say, or Coral Gables, but a variety of storefront restaurants complement the franchises.
“We’ve got everything here,” boasts Rosenberg, “every ethnic restaurant you can want to eat at.”
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