New apartments rising in West Kendall make residents worry about traffic

In a former strawberry and sunflower farm field in West Kendall, the Altman Companies is building a 342-unit multi-family residential apartment complex along with a Baptist Emergency Room.

Residents have shared concerns since the development was first proposed at 9501 Southwest 137th Ave., but they were unable to stop it. Traffic and school capacity are the neighbors’ significant concerns.

The area, just south of the intersection of North Kendall Drive and 137th Avenue, well-established and already highly congested, especially during peak hours.

“There is already a significant amount of traffic in the area,” said Jessica Arias, a resident of the area. “Adding a hospital, businesses, and more residential is going to increase the noise and decrease the ability of existing residents to go about their daily lives without interference.”

In 2021, the Altman Companies began developing a property in Kendall after purchasing nearly 12 acres of the 14.51-acre land from the Baptist Hospital of Miami. Co-CEOs Joel Altman and Seth Wise bought the land for $14.3 million and planned to name the development Altra Kendall. The project is expected to be completed by summer 2024. The remaining 3 acres of the property will be used to construct an adjacent medical building.

The property had been zoned for semi-professional offices and townhouses. However, the Altman companies requested a re-zoning to convert it into a business district. This allowed them to move forward with a mixed-use project that includes a 3-story office building and 342 multi-family apartments in six story buildings.

Altra Kendall will include one, two and three-bedroom apartments. According to an Altman Companies press release, “the apartments will include spa-inspired bathrooms equipped with dual sink vanities, a soaking tub, clear glass shower enclosures, and porcelain tile on the bathroom walls.” The complex includes a 24/7 fitness center, two business centers, a game room, and a swimming pool with a cooking area.

Traffic has been a significant concern for both residents and developers since the beginning of the development. The only access to the property will be off Southwest 137th Avenue, a major north-south corridor, and no access is proposed on SW 96th St.

In a traffic study for the project, Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc.  concluded that the proposed development would add 3,752 net new daily trips, 246 during the morning peak hour and 327 during the afternoon peak hour.

Besides, residents can only turn right when exiting the building complex onto SW 137th Avenue. They can make a U-turn at SW 90th St and SW 137th Ave to go south if needed.

Michael Rosenberg, the Kendall Federation of Homeowners (KFHA) president and a local resident, said the project will worsen morning rush-hour traffic, especially when parents drop off their children at nearby schools.

“When you exit the apartments, you can go right but can’t go left. If you want to go left, you will have to go by Lowe’s and make a U-turn,” says Rosenberg. “In the morning, when everybody leaves, can you imagine all those U-turns?” 

To ease this problem, the developer offered to pay for a traffic signal where the U-turn is located. However, the Department of Transportation and Public Works rejected that idea because it would be too close to the lights between Southwest 96th and 88th streets.

Rosenberg also said that parents who want to drop off their kids at Calusa Elementary will have to go through the U-turn to get to the school, which is next to the Altra Kendall apartments.

Google Map showing the U-turn point at Southwest 90th Street and 137th Avenue to Calusa Elementary School.

When the project was proposed, Miami-Dade Public School System said that “the proposed development would yield a maximum residential density of 354 multifamily units, which generates 64 students: 31 elementary, 14 middle, and 19 senior high students.”

At that time, the nearest elementary school, Calusa, was seven students over its capacity. Arvida Middle School was 237 students over capacity.

Rosenberg said that due to the advanced development, the neighbors have no choice but to face the consequences of the large-scale development in the area.

“There is no solution,” says Rosenberg. “If everybody would’ve gotten involved in the beginning, maybe they could have built two stories instead of six stories.”

Amelia Orjuela Da Silva is a senior majoring in digital journalism with a minor in social media and E-marketing analytics. After graduation, she wishes to pursue a career in the entertainment field as a writer/reporter to shine a light on stories that need to be discovered.