Improving the life of Kendall residents is a strategy that Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan C. Zapata launched three years ago, focused on the county’s “West End.”
In developing a new identity for the area west of SW 137th Avenue, Zapata has created more than a dozen projects from new landscaping, wall painting and opening new bike trails to a community-wide appreciation of the arts through such events as western Miami-Dade’s first West End Arts Festival, now planning its third year.
“All of our efforts are a direct result of feedback from West End residents about what will make their lives better,” Zapata said. “We get calls every day from residents, and fan out into the community to hear their concerns and interests. My commitment is to improve their lives one project at a time.”
He noted that the projects not only help to improve the quality of life of residents, but create jobs for a wide range of businesses.
“As a leader in this community, it is my responsibility to support businesses, particularly small businesses, which are the backbone of this economy. These projects help put food on the tables of many families and strengthen the overall economy,” Zapata said.
Among ongoing projects, big and small, designed to sustain and build community pride are:
• Wrapping eyesore FPL switch boxes in artistic patterns of Miami artist Michelle Weinberg, using $11,075 of Zapata’s office funds to create the first project of its kind with the Florida utility.
• Installation of WiFi connections in Miami-Dade parks and accelerating existing WiFi in libraries, including improving speeds at Kendale Lakes and West End Regional branches with the fastest speeds throughout the MDC Library System, using of a mix of office and GOB Park funds.
• Through the Miami Foundation’s 2016 Public Space Challenge, granting more proposals using private financing to upgrade public spaces than in 2015 with six finalists named from the “West End.”
• Expanding green canopies on several major roads, recently planting close to 100 trees along SW 157th Avenue and Sunset Drive with $144,000 office funds while pushing for upcoming beautification along Kendall Drive between SW 137th and 162nd Avenues.
In its second year, the West End Arts Fair attracted more than 3,000 visitors during a March weekend, aided by $72,741 in private funding.
A collaboration with the Perez Art Museum Miami led to resident biking tours of three PAMM outdoor exhibits of museum reproductions at Kendale Lakes Library, Olympic Park and Hammocks Community Park.
Other art programs have included an environmental wall mural painted by Miami artist Griselda Lechini with help from seniors at the Westwind Lakes Senior Center and transforming Kendale Lakes Library into an art gallery for a one-night exhibition.