Duval Street Revitalization Moves Forward

By Chris Hamilton, June 10, 2020

The Good

Duval Street Revitalization Moves Forward blared the headline at the top of the page in this morning’s Key West Citizen news story by By Pru Sowers. THIS IS GOOD NEWS. We’ve been talking about the Duval Street Revitalization Study since last fall as the next step after the experiment with the Mall on Duval. That the City got the RFQ out, solicited six firms to provide proposals and is down to the final two is progress. The two firms will make presentations to the Commission at their July 21 meeting that will also be the first to be open to the public again.

The Citizen reports: “The two finalist companies had myriad ideas, including lighting, signage, landscaping, seating and shade. Maintaining the historic nature of the street and buildings while protecting them from sea level rise, encouraging pedestrians and bicyclists while balancing them with all modes of transportation, and providing seating and space for events were suggested.” That and the quality of the two finalists is the good news.

The Bad

The not so good news is that at the moment no one is committing any money to move this forward after a firm is selected. Says the Citizen: “…no one knows yet how much money the city will have in revenues and whether it can afford to hire a design company to begin the multiphased project.”

“I was far more excited when we didn’t have the financial hardships we have right now,” Veliz said about the Duval revitalization proposals. “Right now, I’m just trying to get back on our feet.”

City Manager Greg Veliz

“That’s a question mark right now. We’re in a land of unknowns,” 

Assistant City Manager Patti McLauchlin

The Ugly

“Duval Mall is dead. That term should never be mentioned again. The mall was controversial.”

City Manager Greg Veliz

The Mall on Duval wasn’t perfect but it doesn’t need to be disparaged so, does it?. The Mayor and some City Commissioners were responding to citizen requests for pedestrianizing Duval and came up with a worthy experiment. In fact, as the Mayor and others have noted, the Mall on Duval brought citizens back to the street to eat, shop and drink. And as mentioned in the Citizen article, it was the discussions around Mall on Duval that directly led to the Duval Street Revitalization Study. It served a purpose. Let’s move on.

The Takeaway – We Need to Fund the Study

We are going to look at today’s news as a good thing. But we should be forewarned that City management is already laying the cover for not funding the study in next year’s budget and thus delaying the project. What that means is that us citizens need to be talking to our Commissioners and City management about the importance of investing in doing this study now. If there’s going to be a downtime, it is the exact time we should be investing in the planning effort for the future of our Main Street.

The Coda

If the study is funded and gets started this fall, it could be another year of process before any Duval Street Revitalization Plan is in place. Anything in the plan that will take money, especially big infrastructure projects, could therefore be years and years out into the future. So in the meantime that doesn’t mean we have sit and wait. There are some things we can do now:

And during the Duval Street Revitalization Study about infrastructure we should ask the question: Does Duval Street/Downtown Need a Business Improvement District? to help with its operations?

Chris Hamilton
Chris Hamilton

A native of the District of Columbia, where for a couple decades+ he led the nationally renown Commuter Services unit for Arlington County, VA’s DOT, Chris has lived in Key West since 2015. He lives car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

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