Real Estate

Developer Dubs Hialeah "The Brooklyn of Miami"

Shoma Village is an eight-story "luxury" apartment complex under construction in East Hialeah.
Shoma Village is an eight-story "luxury" apartment complex under construction in East Hialeah. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Gueits
Miami is not New York City, and its neighborhoods are not comparable to New York's boroughs. And yet it seems developers are trying to lure gullible Big Apple transplants to, of all places, Hialeah — which boasts the highest percentage of Cuban and Cuban-American residents in the country — by touting it as "the Brooklyn of Miami."

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.
Elsewhere in Hialeah, rents are skyrocketing far beyond what longtime tenants can afford, sometimes increasing by as much as $650.

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.
Some users pointed out that New York transplants and tech bros may not be prepared for the "boutiques and eateries" Shoma Village marketers promise.
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos