Billionaire developer Masoud Shojaee recently made headlines for buying his wife a private jet for Christmas. He's president and chairman of Shoma Group, which is erecting two eight-story "luxury" apartment buildings on Hialeah Drive, a development called Shoma Village (a name, it must be said, that evokes self-aggrandizement more than it conjures images of Williamsburg or Park Slope). Rents start at $1,700 for studio apartments. Online promotional material claims that "many call Hialeah the Brooklyn of Miami, where a world of possibilities beckon you to boutiques and eateries" and mistranslates the municipality's motto, La ciudad que progresa, as "the city of progress."
Shoma Village is being built in East Hialeah, a residential district made up of single-story, single-family homes and low-rise apartment buildings and businesses along Hialeah Drive. The concrete shells of the twin apartment structures already loom over the surrounding area.
Miami Twitter dunked on the Brooklyn characterization after Politico correspondent (and Hialeah native) Sabrina Rodríguez posted screenshots of the Shoma Village website Tuesday, writing, "I drove past some new 'luxury' apartments being built in East Hialeah. *looks up website knowing it’s going to be tremendo robo*."
Some locals and activists, including civil rights group Community Justice Project, already worry that Shoma Village is the next sign of the ongoing gentrification of this working-class immigrant neighborhood.
I drove past some new “luxury” apartments being built in East Hialeah.— Sabrina Rodríguez (@sabrod123) January 18, 2022
*looks up website knowing it’s going to be tremendo robo*
“Why live in Hiealeah” 🚩
“…is not just a city. It’s a feeling.” 🚩
“Many call Hialeah the Brooklyn of Miami” 🚩
Elsewhere in Hialeah, rents are skyrocketing far beyond what longtime tenants can afford, sometimes increasing by as much as $650.
Gentrification isn’t inevitable. It’s a choice that our local elected officials make each time they fail to hold developers and corporations accountable, fail to allow communities to be part of the vision for their own neighborhoods, and fail to choose people over profit. https://t.co/SAMITcc1dA— Community Justice Project (@cjpmiami) January 18, 2022
Zaina Alsous, an organizer with the Miami Workers Center that is working with tenants at a Hialeah apartment complex where rent jumped a whopping 65 percent, from $1,000 to $1,650 a month, says Hialeah is a bellwether for what's transpiring in other parts of South Florida.
"What we’re seeing in Hialeah is happening all over Miami where rents are skyrocketing not because housing has dramatically improved," Alsous tells New Times. "But ultimately because there's unchecked greed in the housing market."
Shoma Group did not respond to a request for comment relayed via phone and email on Tuesday. Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo could not be reached for comment.
Alsous calls Shoma Group's marketing materials for Shoma Village "tone deaf" and notes that the development is not marketed toward local residents who need affordable housing but is aimed at rich transplants who'll likely raise an eyebrow at the KFC across the street and the botanicas not far down the road.
"We are well aware these developments are not designed to serve Miami communities, they're catered to ultrawealthy outsiders," Alsous says. "We say listen to the tenants themselves. People in our communities know what they need."
Alsous herself was taken aback by the comparison to New York City, exclaiming, "'The Brooklyn of Miami'? What the heck are you talking about?"
Twitter users were quick to point out how divorced the advertisement was from reality, starting with the misspelling of Hialeah as "Hiealeah."
"Please I would like them to find me even one person who has called Hialeah the Brooklyn of Miami," wrote Hialeah native and political activist Abel Iraola.
Twitter user @TheDeGroat flipped the script on the Brooklyn comparison, calling Coney Island the Miami of Brooklyn.
please i would like them to find me even one person who has called hialeah the brooklyn of miami https://t.co/WZp72ml4Pq— Abel Iraola (@miamiabel) January 18, 2022
Some users pointed out that New York transplants and tech bros may not be prepared for the "boutiques and eateries" Shoma Village marketers promise.
"Many call Coney Island the Miami of Brooklyn" https://t.co/q6KaMUHm2k— MLS CHAMPS ⭐️ (@TheDeGroat) January 18, 2022
Westland mall does not count as “boutiques and eateries” 😂 https://t.co/vrKqjF4PeW— GHETTO. (@dAMsel_N_Succes) January 18, 2022