2019 Top 10 – #3: New Duval Pocket Park for People Replaces Parking Lot for Cars

Before we bring you the Top 10 Key West Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Stories of 2020 we are counting down last year’s 2019 Top 10 to refresh our memories of where we’ve been. Especially as many of the 2019 stories carry over into 2020. Each day we’ll share another story until we get to 2019’s #1 on December 18. THEN we’ll build on that and begin counting down 2020’s Top 10 till the end of the year. We hope you enjoy our 2019 Recap and our new 2020 stories throughout December. Thank you.

By Chris Hamilton, Sunday, December 29, 2019

Where once stood a dozen plus parking spaces in the middle of our main street, with an ocean view to boot, now stands a beautiful park on the ocean where people can stroll and sit. Here’s how Michael Halpern described the parking lot next to his Southernmost House Hotel: 

“It’s a traffic nightmare: traffic gets in and can’t get out,” said Halpern. “There is a crime and drug problem on the street on a constant basis. And it’s unattractive, and it’s dirty, smelly and it floods regularly.” The rotting seaweed problem is consistent in the summers, making the street fetid-smelling, and the street often floods. The scant parking spaces are difficult to navigate in and out of, and the big green Dumpster has held center stage in recent years.” Most people agreed. 

Plans had been made by the City to do something for over a decade and nothing ever seemed to get done. Halpern stepped up to pay about $1 million for renovations in exchange for leasing part of the property for outdoor café seating, similar to the deal the Southernmost Beach Resort has next door. Following some good discussion about the use of public space for private interests (there could be a whole series of articles on this alone) the concept passed City Commission last summer, 2018. This May the City Commission agreed to Halpern’s design plan, construction started in the summer and the park was recently, for the most part, completed and has been open for a couple months.

It’s a beautiful addition to Duval Street. And they fixed the drainage problem too. Success!

While we don’t minimize the issues inherent in leasing public property and perhaps wish the City had found the money to do the project on their own, the fact is they didn’t get it done for over a decade till someone stepped up with some cash and a good idea. We hope the final execution, which will include the café seating for Southernmost House food trucks (on their own property), will be as thoughtful and well executed as what’s been built to date. The four art benches are wonderful. Most important of all is that people gravitate to and love this park already. 

This is #3 on our list for many reasons, including the mere fact of something getting done (like numbers 5, 6 and 9). It’s on our list foremost because it shows how much better we can make our main street when we get rid of a little car parking. We hope the success of this project informs future plans for the revitalization of Duval Street (see #8 Duval Street Revitalization Sought Via RFQ (Dec. 22)) and that we continue to repurpose car parking for pedestrians and people strolling, shopping, sitting, watching and eating. 

Kudos to Michael Halpern and the City.

#4 Mall on Duval (Dec. 28, 2019)
#5 “HAWK” Signals Installed at Five N. Roosevelt Crosswalks (Dec. 27, 2019)
#6 City Implements Progressive Parking Strategies (Dec. 26, 2019)
#7 Starting the Crosstown Greenway Project (Dec. 23, 2019)
#8 Duval Street Revitalization Sought Via RFQ (Dec. 22, 2019)
#9 City Rebuilds Atlantic Boulevard Bike Path (Dec. 21, 2019)
#10 City Addresses Closing the Gap at Admiral’s Cut (Dec. 20, 2019)

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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