Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Review: Fantastic Key West Art Show

This past week in Key West was one of the most successful and enjoyable art shows of the year.
Laurie Bjorklund, a long-time resident of Key West, returned from her home in Panama with the most incredible collection of Central American artisan crafts. Most notable were the Panamanian baskets (pictured), woven by natives of the Darien Region, of the finest quality. These were one-of-a-kind, museum quality baskets, each created by master basket artisans - some taking 6 months to weave. Each are so tightly woven that they'll actually hold water!
The art show was held at the Gardens Hotel in Old Town Key West and was hosted by Dawn Wilkins of Helio Graphics, an accomplished local artist. Wilkins' artwork focuses on botanical prints and tropical fabric and beautifully study the vegetation and wildlife of the islands.
At the show were many Key West residents who fondly remember Bjorklund and her store Native Material, then located next to the Green Parrot, which offered a wonderful collection of Central and South American crafts.
The show was a huge success and a wonderful event to attend - a true Key West happening. Most of the baskets were quickly purchased by the large number of guests, each in awe of the skill and beauty of the work. No doubt, these were incredible pieces of art - each worthy of placement in fine museums.
Laurie Bjorklund plans to do another show in 2008 - so stay tuned.
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Real Estate Market Decline Only Beginning?

Despite positive assurances of some realtors, the Key West real estate market may have even further to fall should Alan Greenspan's recent warnings come true.

The former Federal Reserve chief, known as one of the most accurate and dependable market sages, warned at a conference this week in Hong Kong that the risk of the U.S. economy falling into a recession by the end of the year was increasing.

This warning comes at a time when mortgage default rates and foreclosures are dramatically increasing. Many market watchers predict that more Americans would default on their mortgages.

The Key West real estate market has seen a record number of properties for sale, with many more under construction. Very slow real estate sales and a glut of properties have led to a decline in the hyper-inflated prices of the past few years.

If recession is truly on the horizon for the United States, the Key West real estate market is likely to continue to suffer.
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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Solution to Affordable Housing in the Keys

What is going on in Key West and the Florida Keys with affordable housing? Nearly nothing.

Although both Monroe County and the City of Key West have declared an affordable housing crisis, nearly nothing has been done about it. The problem has been acute for the past 5 years and now there is little excuse for the inaction.

Key West and the County have both talked the issue to death. Often the biggest decision they can make is to hire yet another "consultant" to figure out the housing problem.

I am going to offer a solution. It is very simple. BUILD AFFORDABLE HOUSES!

What is so difficult to understand? Some will say that the state regulations have made it nearly impossible to build in the Keys. But hasn't Tallahassee recognized the problem and made gestures that they'll help. Why haven't our public officials gone to the Governor of Florida and asked for affordable housing allocations recently?

I think our representatives should be embarrassed. Their inaction is causing our community to erode. Worker shortages are one problem. Overworked workers is another. And maybe most troubling, is the exclusiveness that is being caused by the exorbitant cost of living here. It is a little more than weird to see the ultra-rich newcomer outdoing his neighbor - making the house more and more opulent and ornate. Some of them look like they have gotten their clues from the MTV show Pimp My Ride.

Remember, the Keys were known for being inclusive. It wasn't about keeping up with the Jones. It used to be said that the person at the next barstool or at the grocery could be a prince or a pauper. And that added to the great character of the Keys. Now, developers advertise properties as exclusive, gated communities as the ideal, and ultra-luxury living as necessary and appropriate for the "Key West lifestyle". Personally, I'm a bit sickened by the whole thing.
The future for much of the Keys looks like an ultra-expensive retirement community. I don't think that a bunch of retirees can live without many services. These require employees.

It is high time for the City of Key West and the County to stop ignoring the problem and start building affordable houses. And until they get their act together, they should be buying up properties for sale, the ones that are somewhat reasonably priced (the market is swamped with properties in Key West), and build an affordable housing pool for workers - much like Aspen Colorado - much like the countless studies and consultants have concluded.

Come on officials! Do something REAL about affordable housing! You are miserably failing us!
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