Hialeah, Florida is a large, hispanic-majority city of 200,000 residents located just 10 miles from downtown Miami. With a history in silent movie-making and horse racing at storied Hialeah Park, Hialeah’s role in Cuban immigration has solidified its place as a working class, affordable suburb today. With a 92% hispanic/latino population, Hialeah has the second-highest amount of Cuban and Cuban-American residents in the country. In addition, 92% of residents also report speaking spanish as their first language.
Hialeah’s demographics today are a direct result of Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba in 1959. Following then, several waves of Cuban exiles – continuing through the 1990s – created what one historian has called an “…affordable Eden”, as well as “…a place where different groups have left their imprint while trying to create a sample of what life should be like.” Hialeah today is considered one of the most economically successful immigrant enclaves in the country, and one of the only industrial cities poised for economic growth.
Hialeah’s mall, Westland Mall, is located on the west side of the city along Palmetto Expressway (FL 826) at the intersection of 49th Street (FL 932). It opened in the summer of 1971, expanding upon an already-extant Burdine’s store, adding JCPenney as a middle anchor, and Sears on the other end with an enclosed mall of stores connecting them.
The layout of the mall is a simple dumbbell, and has remained largely unchanged since Westland first opened 38 years ago. In fact, the only large-scale cosmetic changes to the mall have been the addition of a food court, partial renovations – such as flooring, and the changing of Burdines to Macys in 2005. As of January 2007, the alternating wood-paneled ceiling remained, as well as the unique skylight windows. Are they still there? Overall, these features were by far the most interesting features of this mall.
Although demographics informs some of the tenets of the mall - such as spanish signage and hispanic/latin restaurants - many of the mall’s tenants and atmosphere in general are your typical run-of-the-mill mid-tier mall stores, such as Lens Crafters, Victoria’s Secret, and Pac Sun.
Another change at Westland Mall recently was a change in ownership. Previously owned by the Mills Corporation, Westland was unloaded to Westfield America in 2007 after Mills was sold to Simon and Simon ostensibly didn’t want it. Immediately following acquisition, Westfield technically ”renamed” the mall to ”Westland Westfield” - but we’ll pretend that didn’t happen, at least in official recognition (see the title). It’s not like we have any major beef with Westfield, they’re a fine operator - but to rename every mall with a brand? Too much.
The pictures featured here were taken in January 2007. As usual, feel free to leave your own comments and experiences with Westland Mall.