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Project 03


Sunset West Shopping Center, an 80,000-square-foot neighborhood shopping center was built in the 1950s. It is on the corner of SW 87th Avenue and SW 72nd Street or Sunset Drive in Miami.  It had become dated with mansard roofs which have not been seen since the 1970s.  Although the building was old-fashioned, the center brought a lot of traffic, and it was doing well financially.

The owners wanted to update the building but not spend too much money.  The original structure had exposed steel columns. They wanted to use a metal roof.  

United Architects, a Miami architectural firm, with offices in Coral Gables, was hired to update this building. Our solution entailed wrapping the existing steel columns with pre-fabricated cast stone columns.  

Instead of the typical metal roof, we used the one with exposed fasteners, giving the roof a little more interest and detail.  The colors were muted but added appeal.


In addition to the façade change, we redesigned the lighting along the exterior corridors and put in a new perforated plastic ceiling that covered any conduits and pipes running down the halls.  The new lighting improved visibility at night.

Later, the clients resurfaced the parking and installed new landscaping.

"Before" photos of the Sunset West Shopping Center before remodeling by United Architects
"Before" photo of the corner of the shopping center before remodeling
"Before" photo of shopping center before remodeling by United Architects



In my contract with the owners, they were supposed to get the plans for the existing building.  Unfortunately, as often happens, when they asked the county for the plans, there were none.  So, we came up with a creative solution.  The owner hired a surveyor not to only do a survey of the property showing the site and the building, but also to give us several elevation points on the roof, the tops of the steel columns, the top of existing parapets, etc.  In this way, we were able to recreate the elevations as they were.  These became our base plans.

Our plan entailed keeping existing steel columns but removing all the wood mansard roofs.  In the new design, we put in new wood trusses, but in a more modern shape and we put 1’-0” round precast concrete columns around the existing steel columns.  This gave the façade a more attractive and finished look.

We hired a sub-consultant electrical engineer to design the new lighting.  We coordinated with him and the client to come up with the best solution.  We picked several options for the ceiling for the client to choose which he liked best.  

Let me quote from the letter of recommendation written by the client, “This simple solution allowed the Miami-Dade Building Department to classify this remodeling as a ‘Level 1 Alteration’.  With this classification, we did not have to comply with the new wind codes.  This saved us thousands of dollars as we did not have to increase the footing sizes or increase the size of the steel columns.”

The owners were extremely happy with the results.  You can see their letter of recommendation here.

If you have a shopping center remodeling that you would like to discuss, call the principal of the firm, Maria Luisa Castellanos, R.A.

LEED AP, at 305-439-7898.

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