Key West, Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Top 10 Stories of 2020 – #4: Duval Street Revitalization Project Brings Hope to Downtown

By Chris Hamilton, December 29, 2020

From a Promise by Mayor Johnston to a Full Blow Project

The Mayor ran on a platform of revitalizing Duval Street in 2018 and came through by initiating the Mall on Duval pilot project in 2019 and getting a Duval Street Revitalization Study RFQ through the process in 2020. In last year’s 2019 Top 10 countdown we celebrated #8: Duval Street Revitalization Help Sought Via RFQ as the Request For Qualification was released in November of 2019. That was a start. Since then an amazing consultant team, KCI Technologies Inc.; Dover Kohl & Partners; BusinessFlare, was selected at the August 19, 2020 City Commission meeting and City staff has been negotiating a final contract and scope of work since. With any luck, early this winter the project will officially begin. And that’s a big freaking deal for our little island paradise. Especially as this consultant team is full of rock stars from the industry. Their work in other places has been transformative.

From Dover Kohl’s website

According to the City’s Request for Qualifications the goal of the project is to “renovate and revitalize Duval Street to increase opportunities for public use as an iconic civic space for leisure, commerce and tourism; address the infrastructure which will allow for reasonable maintenance frequency and reduce costs to businesses and taxpayers; improve safety for pedestrians and vehicles; and maintain mobility for desired transit operations for all users.” 

“We all love our main street and want to see it prosper and bring our community together” said Mayor Johnston in championing the RFQ:

“Mall on Duval brought locals downtown who haven’t been there in years, prompting a conversation about what improvements need to be made, including widening sidewalks — they range from 8 to 18 feet — and adding planters and benches. There are street designs that have the sidewalk on the same level, and you divide it off by concrete planters. The street can be cobblestone and the sidewalks can be different materials. … We also need shade, benches and water fountains.” 

Mayor Teri Johnston in 2019

A Rare Opportunity

The Duval Street Revitalization effort is one of those rare occasions; I predict it will be a historic moment in the life of the City. Done well, it will have a positive impact on every person on the island. This is a chance to address the local economy, the street design, safety, development regulation and historic preservation, all in the same room.”

Victor Brandon Dover of Dover Kohl & Partners, part of the consultant team.

This video, recommended by Victor Brandon Dover of Dover Kohl & Partners, part of the consultant team, lays out how we’ll tackle the project:

This “Walkable Street Design” video is part of Dover Kohl and Partner’s video series “Town Planning Stuff Everyone Needs to Know.”

Street design doesn’t need to stop with the transportation features in the public rights-of-way. It should be a holistic way of thinking about the City, involving and uniting the whole ensemble: buildings, public space, landscape, the community’s brand image and mobility at the same time.”

Victor Brandon Dover of Dover Koh, part of the consultant team.

A Comprehensive Project

Here’s what the project will look like:

A Vision for Duval Street

The vision for Duval Street will ultimately come from we the people who live here and the businesses along the street. In the consultant’s qualifications they teased out a few things for us to consider. We like the notion of Duval is three streets with one name. Lower, Middle and Upper Duval each have their own vibe. Ideas such as innovative tree planting systems, pavers with curbless sidewalks, retractable bollards, innovative tree grates and trench drains present opportunities for doing things differently. The possibility of one-way blocks to narrow the vehicular path to expand the pedestrian zone and tree cover and additional benches, cafe’ seating and art are the essence of “streets for people.”

Our Consultant’s Have Done Amazing Work in Other Places

KCI/Dover Kohl cited a number of similar projects that should make us feel good about this project. To name a few there’s Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, Music Row in Nashville, Las Olas Boulevard and Breakers Row, in Fort Lauderdale, and Lake Worth Beach Design Guidelines to name just a few. Their list of clients is a who’s who of placemaking. We at Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown have been following the planning Facebook page of Dover Kohl for a long time and love their point of view. KCI Technologies is the kind of engineering and construction firm that will help make our project real and environmentally and sustainably sound.

Hope for Downtown

If you’ve been following our Facebook page and blog you know we are passionate about this project and have lot of expectations for doing better by our main street and historic downtown. At this point everything is conjecture until the people that live here and the businesses that front Duval and the surrounding streets get to chime in. But the bonafides of the consulting team and their approach give us hope for a better future. The fact that the Mayor and City Hall are behind this and willing to invest in our downtown is grounds for optimism. THAT’s why this story is #4 on our Top 10 list. It’s that important. Had the process been further along it would have been higher on our list. But that leaves room for perhaps making it #1 next year – if we can get to a plan. We can only hope!

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#5: Duval and Simonton Rebuilt and Repaved, But… (December 28, 2020)
#6: Key West Transit Abandons Old Meandering Routes (December 27, 2020)
#7: Covid Recovery Plan’s Focus on Open Streets and Downtown (December 26, 2020)
#8: Some Progress on E-Bikes and Scooters Ordinance (December 23, 2020)
#9: FREE Fare on Duval Loop for Visitors is Back! (December 22, 2020)
#10: The Cow Key Bridge Carmaggedon That Wasn’t (December 21, 2020)

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 downtown and works and volunteers for a couple non-profits.

2 Comments on “Key West, Bike, Walk, Transit and Streets for People Top 10 Stories of 2020 – #4: Duval Street Revitalization Project Brings Hope to Downtown”

  1. How about we worry about surviving at the moment as you have no idea how out of touch this sounds

    – Small Business Owner off Duval

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