Key West Releases 17-Point Covid Recovery Plan

Business Recovery Includes Free Duval Loop, Promoting Outdoor Business, Making it Easy for Businesses to Get Help and Marketing Coordination

By Chris Hamilton, October 21, 2020

At Tuesday’s City Commission Meeting the public got its first look at the “Key West Recovers! A 17-Point Business and Humanitarian Covid Recovery Plan for 2020-2021.” It is worth everyone’s time to review the easy-to-read and succinct 8-page plan and the accompanying Key West Recovers PowerPoint presentation that the Mayor and Commissioner’s received from the consultant, Elisa Levi. If you have 30 minutes, it is well worth it to watch Elisa’s passionate presentation in this video (click on item 4).

Elisa Levi presenting to the City Commission.

Ms. Levi had recently been hired to do a long-term strategic plan for the City going out 3-5 years. But the Mayor thought we needed something more immediate to deal with the current crisis. Elia described it as the strategic plan is building the house, and the Covid Recovery Plan is like the house is on fire. We don’t have the luxury of time and we need to move the needle forward now to help the community cope. She painted a bleak picture saying unemployment quadrupled since March, that the Chamber estimates 3,000 workers may leave Key West, the need for food has doubled and Covid cases are up. This plan covers the most important items as ascertained by a broad group of the community.

The report states that “Key West Recovers has been built from the ground up in a matter of six weeks. It comes from community members, and is an excellent example of government/civil society participation. In total, the process involved more than 300 people, who volunteers approximately more than 200 hours of time.” The process took place in four major steps: 20 Zoom roundtables with 250 people from various community groups; 2. Surveys; 3. an 11-member blue ribbon task force; 4. back to the community for feedback.

The Plan has 17 specific points, 10 aimed at business and 7 at humanitarian. Many of the points are already being addressed, including the Commission last night making the Duval Loop free for visitors. All 17 of the action items are important, but for us here at Friends of Car-Free Key West and Duval Street/Historic Downtown we’ll highlight some things we’ve talked about over the last six months in the many stories we’ve published here from the Duval Loop, parklets, moving business outdoors, and creating help for local businesses and marketing:

Item 3 – Operation Storefront – An initiative supported by the Florida Keys Council of the Arts to fill empty storefronts on Duval St. The Arts Council will move their annual membership show into shops to entice locals to visit Old Town, and to make the street look beautiful.

4. Safe Events, Fairs and Festivals – Promote outdoor events, fairs and festivals by making it easy for businesses to submit applications. The City will assist as much as possible, and help with planning.

5. Promoting Outdoor Business – Assist restaurants and cafes with efforts to move outside by creating a Safety Protocol and application and by assisting them upon request.

7. Duval Loop – Cut the fees to encourage visitors to get around town to our businesses for free.

9. Free Business Assistance – one-on-one consulting to business owners in KW.

10. Communications Coordinator – This is the lynchpin of the Plan. There are currently many resources available for Covid, but no mechanism for sharing them with the community. The City will hire a Communications Coordinator to share resources, services and tools with the Community.

We are lucky to have so many people who love our island, put their heads together and come up with a plan to help us move forward, together, as One Human Family. Everyone who participated, deserves a lot of thanks and credit. Especially the Mayor and the consultant, who didn’t charge for this phase of her time. I was lucky enough to interact with Elisa on one of the Zoom Round Tables and some private follow-up and she was incredible. If her and the community’s work on this is an example of what we’ll get with the upcoming Strategic Plan, then our little island is in very good hands.

Everyone should get behind this plan and help the City move it forward.

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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