School of Architecture Helps Allapattah Get Its ‘Beautiful Little Corner’

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.

School of Architecture Helps Allapattah Get Its ‘Beautiful Little Corner’

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.
A mural commissioned by the School of Architecture and the Dominican American National Foundation transforms a bustling city corner of Miami.

When Allapattah residents met with students and faculty from the University of Miami’s School of Architecture for five days last May to hash out a plan for their community’s economic and cultural growth, they mentioned ideas such as outdoor kiosks where local businesses could sell their merchandise, the repositioning of certain buildings, and a beautification project to bring more public art to the area.

On Friday, two months after that charrette, part of the residents’ vision for their Allapattah neighborhood, also known as Little Santo Domingo because of its large Dominican population, came true with the unveiling of a mural they hope is the first of many more.

“I wanted to give this community something that reminds people of what we can do to beautify this area,” said Ariel Cruz, the artist commissioned by the School of Architecture and the Miami-based Dominican American National Foundation (DANF) to paint the mural.

Featuring birds and plant life native to the Dominican Republic, the mural wraps around the west and south sides of the Sarraff Store Fixtures and Equipment building on Northwest 17th Avenue and 36th Street, giving pedestrians and motorists something new to look at.

“I wanted to make sure I did this right. I could have completed it in three days, but it took five, and just about every day people would stop to see what I was doing,” said Cruz, a Dominican-American who grew up in a Rhode Island community much like Allapattah before moving to Miami.

“It’s our Beautiful Corner of Allapattah,” said DANF chair Rudy Duthil, referring in English to the mural’s official name of La Bella Esquina de Allapattah.

Chuck Bohl’s voice was barely audible over the roaring cars and trucks that raced through the intersection during the peak of the Friday workday when the mural got its public unveiling. But the University of Miami associate professor of architecture didn’t seem to mind. After all, he was there to help show, not tell.

The mural, he said, helps solidify the community’s ethnic and cultural identity.

“We were building on the concept of nurturing more of a Main Street environment—more art, more entertainment, more culture—but in an incremental way so that a lot of the little business can continue to thrive,” Bohl, director of the School of Architecture’s Masters in Real Estate Development and Urbanism program said of the charrette he helped organize along with UM’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement.

Other ideas that came out of that planning session, including kiosks behind grocery stores, could come later. But it will take working with city officials to make sure those ideas become reality, said Bohl.

“We’ve seen other areas that catch fire and get the attention of developers,” explained Bohl, “So it can happen very quickly.”