Commissioner Juan C. Zapata’s renaming of West Kendall as the “West End” of Miami- Dade County continues to stir up strong opinions — both in support of and vehement objection to the idea.
In recent weeks, a “Welcome to the West End” four-color folder has made its appearance at community meetings under a log that incorporates the wording: “Making a Difference” – TEAM ZAPATA.
Part of the brochure text under a heading “About The West End” states: “As a fastgrowing area west of the turnpike, we are a community of fun families, friendly neighbors, and fit residents.”
Within its inner pages are eight major southwest Miami-Dade attractions that include Zoo Miami and the Shark Valley Visitor Center, not precisely within the West End boundaries originally defined by Zapata as Florida’s Turnpike west to Krome (SW 177th) Avenue from Eighth Street south to 152nd Street, an area described by the “Zapata Team” as populated by 213,839 residents, equal to the 100th largest U.S. city, larger than Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach.
Zapata’s renaming program initially began in 2014 with renaming Kendall- Tamiami Executive Airport as “Miami Executive Airport” as an economic incentive to promote airport business. During 2015, the effort gained momentum with the first annual “West End Arts Festival” this past April and renaming two incorporation study groups as “North” and “South” West End Municipal Advisory Committees.
However, the renaming became a county-wide issue during an October Miami-Dade Commission meeting when a nearly one hour discussion weighed pros and cons of renaming the West Kendall Regional Library the “West End Regional Library.” The action passed, 10-1, with Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava dissenting.
Zapata has spoken out strongly for months about creating a new identity for the West Kendall area, fostering the belief in many that he has an ulterior motive by creating a city of which he would become mayor, an allegation he has denied consistently in open community meetings.
To gain a sense of current West End opinion, the Gazette sought comments from community leaders and business people. Typical of commentaries received:
“I support the idea of naming our area West End because it identifies us a community,” said Ortiga “Ory” Dawes, currently chair of the West End South Municipal Advisory Committee.
“Distinguishing ourselves in southwest Dade, as ‘West Enders’ allows all of us to feel we belong to one community and not just Country Walk or the Hammocks. I can’t wait to hear people say, I live in the West End,” Dawes added.
“I have lived in Kendall for over 30 years, and this is not the West End. It does not define where I live,” said Michael Rosenberg, president of the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations and a resident of Calusa.
“Commissioner Zapata should have a contest where the community submits possible names. On the 2016 ballot, you put the top five choices up to a vote, with a sixth choice being no change. That is called a democracy.”
Miles Moss, president of the Winston Park Homeowners Association and longtime activist in the West Kendall area noted that quite a few people comment to members of the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations.
“We have not discussed this yet and plan to discuss this at our next board meeting. We did not know the request for name changing was happening until the last minute,” he added.
“‘Congestion USA’ is the only thing that comes to mind. I cannot imagine anyone choosing that destination, other than those who have to get home,” said Doug Kostowski, president, Travel People, 10707 SW 104 St. “… between my office and SW152nd Avenue is unbelievable; in the ‘p.m. rush,” no one heading to West End gets home.”
Patricia “Shannen” Davis, former chair of Community Council 11, said she supported the commissioner’s move to rebrand.
“The name West Kendall has changed meaning more than once. I had been describing where I live as ‘West of the Hammocks.’ I think calling us the West End will help attract businesses and more recreation for our families,” she said.
“The commissioner wants to make his own city called the ‘West End’ and become its mayor,” said Frank Cobo, former Miami-Dade School Board member and a Miami Realtor. “To do that, he had to change the name to West End because his support will all lie in his district, and not throughout Kendall as a county area. I think his only real motivation is to become the mayor of West End.”
Michael Miller, a resident of West Kendall’s Horse County said he was very impressed with the bold steps that Commissioner Zapata is taking.
“Of course, some moves are risky but so is life itself. Sometimes a name change sparks hope, provides clarity, direction and motivation, and we hope that the mayor doesn’t veto the name,” Miller said.