I've included images of the plan which were presented to the commission and public (click the images to see larger versions)
The plan appears to balance the communities desire for greenspace with the obvious value to the City of this important piece of waterfront. In my mind, it looks very good and will be a vibrant, enjoyable, and interesting new addition to the City of Key West.
The plan creates a large park out of most of the land 75%-80% greenspace. Also included in the plan is a "Bahama Village Square", marina, harbor walk, public pier, flexible greenspace that accommodates a soccer field (also for events, concerts, etc), public gardens, an interactive children's' fountain, maybe a restaurant, and an assisted care living facility. Planners were quick to point out that none of these particulars have been decided, and will require public input and voter referendums. The plan is an outline of what general uses each area might be designated.
Many ideas were mentioned for the various spaces - many for community organizations with very worthwhile causes. Some good ideas included a culinary institute for our hospitality industry, spaces for Bahama Village residents to have cottage businesses, art spaces, and trade instruction.
Also included in the plan is 86 residential affordable housing units, retailing directed to those affordable housing units, nearly 200 parking spaces, butterfly/bird attracting plantings, bocci courts, and plenty of shaded areas.
Ed Swift spoke at the public input and believes that Cuba is likely to open sooner rather than later (though he conceded that he's been saying that for 30 years). Swift pointed out that high-speed, ocean going ferries will want to operate out of Key West to travel to Cuba. He implored the City officials to consider this future need while designing the property and design with Cuba in mind.
Norma Jean Sawyer, executive director of the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust, was inspiring - and an excellent leader for her community. She reminded the commission that the conveyance of the land by the Navy was for the purpose of "economic development". Her plans for the Bahama Village Square, approximately 6.6 acres, will greatly benefit her community. Removal of the fences bordering Bahama Village and the waterfront will immediately benefit Bahama Village, and she (along with other speakers) requested that the City move quickly on taking down the fences.
Commissioners seemed all over the place in their comments.
Rossi thinks there is already too much vacant commercial space in town, and does not we need anymore. And, he said that without the traffic issue worked out (thanks to TAMPOA), and the Admiral's Cut issue, there is probably little that is worth planning for now.
Menendez spoke passionately about the needs of children.
Verge moaned that this project would cost a fortune - stating that the cost projection made 5 years ago of $20 million was now probably more likely $100 million. I can't imagine how the numbers could change anywhere near that.
In the end, the Commission directed City staff to look into removing the fences, placing some sod, and starting the very long process of planning with special meetings.
This plan, no matter what it is, is likely to take a very long time. After all, as Norma Jean Sawyer mentioned, this whole thing began over 10 years ago.
TAMPOA is likely to have a fit over this - and I won't be surprised if they fight the City over every minute point, making the residents of Key West wait and wait for their new park and amenities.
It should be clear to TAMPOA that Southard Street is part of the City plan. Fight in court all you want - the City will need the street, and eminent domain is fair if the City does not prevail in the current litigation. TAMPOA claims that they'll lose value - but the City may be able to make the claim that the improvement to the neighboring property will benefit them - offsetting their "loss".
Either way - TAMPOA, you may think you live in an investment - but in reality, you live in a community. Threatening to make the City pay tens of millions of dollars because you lose your "gated" status is sad. We are islanders - in this together. I'm sure you could enormously repair your image in the City if you simply ended your claim to the street. All islanders may even rejoice, and head down to Truman Annex and thank your for helping to make our island a better place.
Your comments are encouraged. What do you think?
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