Here’s the link – Note it’s behind a paywall: https://keysnews.com/article/story/reimagining-key-west/
This is a more in-depth follow up to our article “3 Quick Wins for Revitalizing Duval Street” where we advocated for quickly putting in parklets, bike parking and letting people take the street as a way to pedestrianize Duval, even if closing it off to cars completely or rebuilding it won’t happen right away.
Wouldn’t it be nice to reimagine a Duval Street with more people and less cars when the shops, bars and restaurants reopen? Many people want to make all of or parts of Duval Street a pedestrian-only zone, except for delivery vehicles. But the experimental Mall on Duval program is over and not coming back because the City is conducting a “Duval Street Revitalization” study. So it could be a long time before any action is taken. One way to “widen our sidewalks” and add more people activity to our Main Street quickly would be to allow businesses, organizations or even the City to install parklets in space that is currently used for car parking. How about setting a goal for getting 20 of these planned and started, if not open, during 2020.
Parklets are spots for people. Not cars. Parklets are an extension of the sidewalk out into the street, usually in what was formerly a parking space – thus the name. They are intended to be used by people, usually to sit, either as an open park or as part of a retail establishment nearby. They are often temporary and can be built quickly and relatively inexpensively. So putting these in now wouldn’t preclude more permanent infrastructure changes in the future. In fact, this little bit of tactical urbanism would be a nice way to test out wider sidewalks before going to the expense of rebuilding the street. It might be a way for restaurants to add capacity at a time when they may need to decrease tables inside to meet physical distancing guidelines.
According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Street Design Guidelines manual: “Parklets are typically applied where narrow or congested sidewalks prevent the installation of traditional sidewalk cafes, or where local property owners or residents see a need to expand the seating capacity and public space on a given street. To obtain a parklet, property owners enter into an agreement with the city, in some cases through a citywide application process, procuring curbside seating in place of one or more parking spaces.”
There are places along Duval where there is currently parking (300, 800, 900 blocks) or where the sidewalk narrows for temporary parking (200, 500, 600, 700 blocks) where parklets could be installed. On Upper Duval, beyond Truman Avenue, there’s parking on both sides of the streets, providing additional spots for parklets.
Parklets shouldn’t just be for Duval Street. Anywhere near Duval or how about anywhere downtown where there are groups of retail shops, should be able to participate. Southard and Fleming Streets between Simonton and Whitehead are perfect places to add street vitality. Why not on White Street? Where else?
Installing retail sponsored parklets provide opportunities for restaurants to provide dining for customers. Installing public parklets provide anyone with a place to stop, rest, have a drink from another establishment and people watch. Studies show that older folks especially consider sidewalk furniture important. Another benefit of public parklets is the community of Third Places. A public space to sit or to sit and eat, if it has a table, draws people to sit and chat and share and recognize their neighbors. Saying meet me in front of X now means I can sit down. Coffee shops are a great example of Third Places but you have to buy something to use it. A public parklet become a Third Place and that creates community. We need both privately sponsored and publicly sponsored parklets. And publicly sponsored doesn’t necessarily mean City-sponsored. It could be a nearby retail shop, a civic or non-profit group or a general benefactor.
Parklets would help further enliven the street and their extension into the right of way would slow down cars. Perhaps grants can be given to groups to build these? Restaurants and retail shops could build their own or team with others to help them. The TDC could provide money. Or CFFK. Team with Key West Hight School and/or arts organizations to help design, build and decorate them like was done with the trash and recycling on the street.
We need to make the permits for these free and restaurants should NOT incur additional charges for the new outdoor seating. This is something we should encourage and making it onerous for businesses to participate will kill any effort to enliven the street.
The dream of revitalizing Duval Street and making it more pedestrian friendly doesn’t have to wait for a study and an infrastructure rebuild to happen. If we could simply widen our existing sidewalks by taking over some of the space being used for car parking we could get closer to that dream right now.
Here’s more information and some design guidelines from the National Association of Transportation City Transportation Officials (NACTO) from their Urban Street Design Guidelines manual.
Please check out our follow-up article “City of Key West – Let Our Restaurants Take Our Streets!” May 6, 2020.
With lots of good people thinking about Reimagining Key West in a post Coronavirus world, there have been several popular calls for pedestrianizing Duval Street, especially the portion between Front Street and Truman Avenue or Lower and Middle Duval. Followers of our Facebook page, Friends of Car-Free Key West, know we are advocates for this concept. People seemingly have talked about this idea for decades. The Mayor’s experimental Mall on Duval was the first attempt to do something in ages but that’s now officially over. Keeping in mind some other things* the City is doing, here are three ideas for some quick wins right now to get us closer to this vision.
1. Install Parklets
Parklets are spots for people. Not cars. Parklets are an extension of the sidewalk out into the street, usually in what was formerly a parking space – thus the name. They are intended to be used by people, usually to sit, either as an open park or as part of a retail establishment nearby. They are often temporary and can be built quickly and relatively inexpensively. There are places along Duval where there is currently parking (300, 800, 900 blocks) or where the street widens and the sidewalk narrows for temporary parking (200, 500, 600, 700 blocks) where parklets could be installed. On Upper Duval, beyond Truman Avenue, there’s parking on both sides of the streets, providing additional spots for parklets.
Parklets shouldn’t just be for Duval Street. Anywhere near Duval or how about anywhere downtown where there are groups of retail shops, should be able to participate. Southard and Fleming Streets between Simonton and Whitehead. On White Street. And more.
For MORE on parklets read: 20 Parklets on Duval in 2020
Installing parklets provide opportunities for restaurants to provide sidewalk dining, provide people with a place to stop, rest and people watch. They would help further enliven the street and their extension into the right of way would slow down cars. Perhaps grants can be given to groups to build these? Restaurants and retail shops could build their own or team with others to help them. The TDC could provide money! Team with Key West Hight School and/or arts organizations? Make it free for businesses to participate and easy via the permit system to build.
Here’s more information and some design guidelines from the National Association of Transportation City Transportation Officials (NACTO) from their Urban Street Design Guidelines manual.
2. Install Bike Parking
A couple months ago the City’s Transportation Coordinator announced they’d taken receipt of a lot of new bicycle racks and wanted some input on where to put them. Use some of the same space described above for bicycle and scooter parking. We should be encouraging more people to bike and provide more parking, right where people want to go, to makes it easy as possible.
Do the bicycle parking corral style so that there’s a lot of parking in one spot. Bike Corrals are bike racks installed in the curbside lane of the street instead of on the sidewalk. This design is a great solution for places where demand for bicycle parking exceeds the available sidewalk space. Where adjacent, integrate it with the parklets. Bicycle parking should also be consistently found in large numbers, corral style on Duval’s cross streets. Eaton Street at Duval, next to St. Paul’s is a good example. In most cases the corral style also lends itself to adding scooter parking too. Where possible we should include electric hook up to encourage quiet electric scooters.
3. Slow The Cars and Let People Take the Street
If we don’t ban cars during certain hours on certain blocks, like we did for Mall on Duval, why not simply make the speed limit 5 miles per hour and allow people to walk in the street. If vehicles need or want to go down the street, they simply need to go slow and keep in mind that people have the right away. Always. Much of Commercial Street in Provincetown works this way. Cars use the street, but so do people and so cars only do so when they need to and they go very slow and carefully.
We wouldn’t need to do much planning nor infrastructure improvements to implement this. Doing these things wouldn’t have to be permanent, so if we want to reconfigure the street in the future, we can change things. The idea is to do something quick, get a win and feel good about reimagining Key West.
*Two quick notes. 1) The City of Key West put out a Request for Qualifications in hopes of selecting a firm to “provide complete services for the revitalization of the historic street.” Proposals were due February 19. No word yet if a firm has been selected and the process has begun. 2) The City is in the final phases of repaving Duval Street. The City has spent the last four weeks rebuilding intersection curb and gutter, some mid-block curb and gutter and has rebuilt many patches of the street in anticipation of putting down new, smooth asphalt – which should start any day now. With this in mind we’d guess that no major physical changes would be considered at the moment.
Please check out our first article in this series “Reimagining Key West – 10 Things We Should Strive For and 10 Ways to Get There” posted on April 22.
Main Photo Credit Rob O’Neil, March 29, 2020
Reimagining Key West
– 10 Things We Should Strive For and 10 Ways To Get There
The Great Pause foisted upon us by the Coronavirus Pandemic gives us an opportunity to reset. As individuals and as communities. It gives us time to reimagine how things can be different in the future. People are waking up to cleaner air, crystal clear water teeming with fish, nature coming back, un-congested streets and a new appreciation for simpler ways. We should realize we have the power to not just rush back to a world that looks exactly the way it was before. Even if politicians and companies turn things back on, are people really going to feel comfortable going back to a go-go, mass consumption, crowded and crazy race to keep up with the Joneses? Are things ever going to be the same? With this new awakening what are the good things we want more of? What are the bad things we just shouldn’t bring back? And how do we make that future happen?
Here in Key West many thoughtful people have been putting together ideas for Reimagining Key West’s future.
10 Things We Should Strive For
I basically hear people yearning for a Key West that is simpler, less crowded and more about our residents. In reimagining Key West, here’s 10 things we should strive for.
- A less expensive place to live. Where there is enough affordable housing for people who want to live here full-time. Where people can afford to live and work in the City rather than having to drive miles and miles to afford a home.
- Jobs that pay a living wage or that are good enough so that one job can cover the rent or mortgage.
- A place where local Mom and Pop shops rule. Where one can afford to start a business and not have to compete with national chains for space.
- A community where everyone respects, protects and celebrates our natural environment. Our air, waters, coral reef and and all the living creatures in them. Where sustainable fishing and boating are done in an eco-friendly way.
- A culture where creativity flourishes in the arts – visual, literary, musical, theatrical, film and other – for locals and people from around the world. A culture where these creative people give us events, festivals, parties and more art – however you define it – than any town in the world of similar size.
- Stewardship of our history, storied characters and unique One Human Family story and that preserves and shares this heritage with the world.
- Veneration of our historic district – the U.S.A’s largest of wood frame buildings, and educating people about our architectural legacy.
- Revitalization of our Main Street, Duval Street, and make it welcoming to residents as well as tourists. Make it more pedestrian oriented, with wider sidewalks, benches, cafe seating and more trees and shade.
- Making it easy and safe for more of us to get around more often by walking, biking and the bus.
- Embodying our One Human Family motto in everything we do. We should continue to attract people who move to the beat of a different drummer, from bohemians, hippies, dreamers, the LTBTQ community, anyone who’s starting over or reinventing themselves or whatever you want to call different.
We DO want to share all this with visitors. But we want visitors that can appreciate what our island has to offer on its own terms and merits without the expectation of mass culture or consumption that degrades all we’re trying to preserve, protect and enhance. If visitors can’t respect these terms, we should ask them to go elsewhere.
10 Ways To Get There
Here’s some things we can do to get more of the Key West we want:
- Limit the cruise ships. Enough has already been written on this topic so as not to warrant further elaboration. Suffice it to say research shows that the environmental degradation these behemoths bring to our small island outweighs their benefits.
- Incentivize and build more work-force and affordable housing. Build it downtown where people can be close to most of the jobs and not be forced to drive. More than half the people who work in the City live in the County. That means too many people are driving. This wasn’t the case in the 1970’s and 80’s – a time lots of people feel nostalgic for. Back then, most people who worked in the City, lived here too. That made it less congested and friendlier. Some ideas: Start with approving the Porches project. That’s 480 units and 750 people downtown. Approve a similar project, with retail on the bottom on the property for sale at Duval at United Street. Perhaps another 200 units and 300 people. Build something similar on the huge parking lot of the La Concha. Put these units on top of the parking. Another 200 units and 300 people. Do the same on the City’s Caroline Street surface lot and you get another 100 units and 150 people. Double up on incentives for family-size units. That’s almost 1,000 units and about 1,500 living downtown year-round. More people living downtown will help local business too.
- Pass a Living Wage bill in Key West.
- Don’t allow any more transient rental licenses. Period.
- When the Truman Annex Transient Rental Licenses expire in 2025, LET THEM EXPIRE. No exceptions. Period.
- Find a way to sunset as many existing transient rental licenses as possible. Don’t let them transfer with a property sale. Buy them out. Or sunset them far into the future. That or jack up their annual fees or taxes.
- Re-allocate a majority of the TDC’s (Monroe County Tourist Development Council) marketing funds back to the City, County and non-profits for infrastructure and operating projects (See #8 and #9).
- Invest in infrastructure. With interest rates at record lows we’d be silly not to take money that is practically free. Rebuild Duval Street with wider sidewalks, benches, and trees. Start to elevate our streets. Refresh our beaches. Invest more in coral reef restoration. Pump money into Key West Art and Historical Society and its museums, into our historic district, into all of the non-profit art associations. Build a Rainbow Museum about our LGBTQ history. Demarcate the historic district. Invest in electric buses for Key West Transit and the Duval Loop. Provide better wayfinding signage. Build protected bikeways and bike trails. Put in more bike parking.
- Invest in our people and the things that make this island unique. Move the College of the Florida Keys downtown so its more part of the community. Make it free. Instead of the TDC spending money on marketing, it should spend money on providing operating support for Key West non-profit history, art and eco museums and cultural offerings (the State Department of Cultural Affairs has a similar General Program Support grant but it is always underfunded. The TDC could just supplement what the State gives without having to invent a whole new process).
- Work to make Key West a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is Nance Frank’s idea and I love it.
Thanks to the founders of Reimagining Key West for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
– Chris Hamilton, Key West resident
For similar thoughts Follow us over at Friends of Car-Free Key West.
Here’s a shorter version of the article published in the Citizen as a Letter to the Editor on April 30, 2020.
Of the American Planning Association‘s (APA) 306 Great Places in America, 89 of them are designated as Great Streets. The balance of these places are either neighborhoods or public spaces. APA designated the Great Places in the years 2007-2019 and is currently working on releasing their winners for 2020.
Key West’s Duval Street is among the 89. We bring you this Great Streets List because Key West is embarking on a study and reimagining how to improve it’s own main street. We hope perusing this list provides for ideas on how to make our own great street – Duval Street – even better.
- Cushman Street: Fairbanks, Alaska
- Broadway Street: Skagway, Alaska
- Congress Street: Tuscon, Arizon
- Spring Street: Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- Olvera Street: Los Angeles, California
- 5th Avenue: San Diego, California
- State Street: Santa Barbara, California
- Aspen Pedestrian Mall: Aspen, Colorado
- Pearl Street Mall: Boulder, Colorado
- U Street N.W.: Washington, D.C.
- Broadwalk: Hollywood, Florida
- Laura Street: Jacksonville, Florida
- Duval Street: Key West, Florida
- Ocean Drive: Miami Beach, Florida
- Palafox Street: Pensacola, Florida
- Clematis Street: West Palm Beach, Florida
- 7th Avenue: Tampa, Florida
- Bull Street: Savannah, Georgia
- The Squares of Savannah: Savannah, Georgia
- Front Street: Lahaina, Hawaii
- Sherman Avenue: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
- Main Street: Ketchum, Idaho
- Bank Street: Wallace, Idaho
- Lincoln Avenue and Giddings Plaza: Chicago, Illinois
- North Michigan Avenue: Chicago, Illinois
- Main Street: Galena, Illinois
- Monument Circle: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Massachusetts Street: Lawrence, Kansas
- West Main Street: Louisville, Kentucky
- St. Charles Avenue: New Orleans, Louisiana
- Front Street: Bath, Maine
- Commercial Street: Portland, Maine
- Congress Street: Portland, Maine
- Main Street: Annapolis, Maryland
- Washington Street: Boston, Massachusetts
- Main Street: Nantucket, Massachusetts
- South Main Street: Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Front Street: Traverse City, Michigan
- Summit Avenue: St. Paul, Minnesota
- Washington Avenue: St. Louis, Missouri
- Main Street: Bozeman, Montana
- Broadway Avenue: Red Lodge, Montana
- South 24th Street: Omaha, Nebraska
- Water Street: Henderson, Nevada
- C Street: Virginia City, Nevada
- Market Street and Market Square: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
- Haddon Avenue: Collingswood, New Jersey
- Washington Street: Hoboken, New Jersey
- Bridge Street: Las Vegas, New Mexico
- Arthur Avenue: Bronx, New York
- Market Street: Corning, New York
- Wall Street: Kingston, New York
- Broadway: New York, New York
- Fifth Avenue: New York, New York
- Harlem’s 125th Street: New York, New York
- Main Street: Sag Harbor, New York
- Broadway: Saratoga Springs, New York
- Main Street: Waterloo, New York
- Lexington Avenue: Asheville, North Carolina
- Main Street: Davidson, North Carolina
- Middle Street: New Bern, North Carolina
- Fayetteville Street: Raleigh, North Carolina
- Fifth Street: Dayton, Ohio
- Third Street: McMinnville, Oregon
- 5th and 6th Avenues – Portland Transit Mall: Portland, Oregon
- Liberty Street: Franklin, Pennsylvania
- Broadway: Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
- South Broad Street: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Rittenhouse Square: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Grant Street: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Broad Street: Charleston, South Carolina
- King Street: Charleston, South Carolina
- Main Street: Greenville, South Carolina
- State Street: Bristol, Tennessee, and Bristol, Virginia
- Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge: Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Gay Street: Knoxville, Tennessee
- South El Paso Street: El Paso, Texas
- The Strand (Avenue B): Galveston, Texas
- West Magnolia Avenue: Fort Worth, Texas
- 25th Street: Ogden, Utah
- South Temple Street: Salt Lake City, Utah
- King Street: Alexandria, Virginia
- Clarendon-Wilson Corridor: Arlington, Virginia
- Davis Street: Culpeper, Virginia
- Washington Street: Middleburg, Virginia
- Monument Avenue: Richmond, Virginia
- West Beverley Street: Staunton, Virginia
- Duke of Gloucester Street: Williamsburg, Virginia
- North Main Street: Wheeling, West Virginia
This video was made by ArlingtonTV about the launch of Capital Bikeshare in Arlington, Virginia and Washington, D.C. in September of 2010. The first major bikeshare system in the U.S.A. Chris Hamilton was in charge of Arlington’s effort and secured the procurement contract that got the entire program going in both jurisdictions.
Chris Hamilton #42 on 2017 Chris Traeger 100 List
Engaging Local Government Leaders‘ (ELGL) Chris Traeger List recognizes the top 100 influencers in local government. Chris Traeger was the city manager for the fictional City of Pawnee, Indiana on the show Park and Recreation. He was known for extreme energy and commitment to improving local government.
The Traeger List is not based on title or longevity. It’s based on an individual’s influence in their community and outside their community through professional associations, mentoring, and writing.
Nominations were submitted from local government professionals from across the country. This year, we empowered ELGL members to select the top ten of the Traeger List. The ELGL Evaluation Team reviewed and selected the remainder of the list.
42. Chris Hamilton, City of Key West, FL, Bike & Pedestrian Coordinator
Word on the Street: Chris is a leading thinker on car-free transportation. He’s passionate about getting people to use alternative transportation options. He is a must-follow on Twitter. Chris will keep you up to speed on parking requirements, bike share, and more.
Learn More: Podcast: Car-Free Planning in DC & Key West
Chris Hamilton joins GovLove to talk all about car-free transportation, planning and paradise. Chris is the Car-Free Key West program manager and former Transportation Bureau Chief for Commuter Services in Arlington County, VA. He shares how small investments in marketing can impact transportation use, the value of bike share and more.
Link to the page on the GovLove site: https://elgl.org/podcast-car-free-planning-in-dc-key-west/
GovLove named Chris to its 2017 Traeger Award winners for Top 100 Influencers in Local Government. He came in at #42.
Friends of Car-Free Key West‘s Chris Hamilton joins Key West journalist Gwen Filosa on her weekday morning show “It’s Too Early!” on Island 106.9 FM on December 17, 2019. Gwen and Chris had a rollicking good time talking about bikes and cars, about some wonderful new things the City of Key West is doing, about biking around Key West and about the World Series Champion Washington Nationals too. Take a listen to a very fun 30 minutes! You can find Gwen on Facebook here.
A 30 min documentary released in October, 2013 showing the steps taken in Arlington, VA to become a more bike-friendly city.
Arlington County’s commitment to biking is pretty huge.
And for any other place in the country looking to enhance its bicycling infrastructure and encourage a healthier populace and more vibrant cityscape – BikeArlington’s recent Bikeswell movie is a must-see.