Thursday, May 20, 2010

Truman Waterfront Development

I very much enjoyed reading comments on my essay earlier this week from people who had memories of this part of key West from the days when it was a busy Navy base. Key West has had a close relationship with the military over the decades: how could it not being as it is a border town? But that relationship has been strained by comings and goings and changes in military presence. A cutback in the 1970s saw such a huge withdrawal that the city was brought to it;s knees economically almost as badly as it was by the Great Depression of the 20th century when Key west went bust. However that military withdrawal laid the groundwork for the city you see today and now finally, all this waterfront land is about to be developed. A scary thought.In the picture above Cheyenne is seen strolling past one of the guard huts that used to mark the main entrance to the waterfront Navy base. The gates have been wide open for years and the land has been left pretty much to itself but now these 33 acres (almost 34) are getting a face lift and because this is Key West everyone has an opinion. My opinion? I like it as kit is but I am in a minority of one (two if you count Cheyenne). Everyone now wants a piece of the action and the rhetoric is heating up.Plans for an old folks home on 6 acres under the auspices of the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust died with the death of that ill managed organization. So now what? Key West's premier land grabbers have a plan and who would expect less of the Spottswoods? They want to get the city to agree to underwrite bond at public expense, pay them to build a private high end marina and the n pay them to run the marina for the city. Any income left over from this breathtaking plan pays off the bond and any money left over after that goes to city coffers. It reminds me of the plan they put forward at the community college to build dormitory housing on land leased from the college. Their plan required the college to deed the land to the Spottswoods if the development did not go through. In her last act the discredited Landesberg Boyle spared us that nonsense and killed the plan before her appointment as President was killed. The Citizen newspaper recently published pictures of the Spottswood proposal: In close up it looks like this. The circular thing is an amphitheater and the marina would be built where the floating museums are currently tied up and they would be moved up the seawall toward the Westin Hotel. The white buildings would be shops and restaurants also generating income supposedly.The marina would be down by the Mohawk in this photo looking south along the seawall. From my perspective I don't know why the city needs to sell a $34 million dollar bond to fund a private development. The city already runs two public marinas quite successfully and leases properties around the Key West Bight, so why this land grab is even being considered beats me. Happily I am not a city resident so it won't be my taxes funding the Spottswoods. There is of course more controversy on another aspect of the development. This one is called Admiral's Cut and it is a gap in the seawall that separates the Westin Waterfront from Truman Waterfront. This is a picture of the seawall protecting the Westin Marina from open waters at Admiral's Cut:Currently the city waterfront ends at this barbed wire fence. Across the cut one can see the Westin Waterfront which is connected all the way round to Mallory Square and from there a pedestrian can easily access the Boardwalk at the Bight which starts at the end of Front Street at A&B. With this gap bridged one could walk from Fort Zachary to Mallory Square on a waterfront boardwalk. However the Westin doesn't want to sell the gap to the city.Admiral's Cut is currently used as a boat and jet ski dock. City Commissioner Mark Rossi who owns the Ricks/DurtyHarry/Red Garter complex has proposed expropriating this cut and building a foot bridge across it as a benefit to the citizens of the city.
His suggestion has managed to bring down a shit storm on his head, and though I am no fan of the sleazy nastiness that is Ricks etc I think his idea has a great deal of merit.For some it is way to funnel cruise ship passengers from the Outer Mole to downtown (and thus, Ricks) as though cruise ship passengers are going to walk a mile in Key West's hot sun rather than riding the city provided trolleys to downtown. Other objections focus on the city paying money to secure the waterfront access. I have no idea why the idea of a city front walkway is so objectionable but there we are: Key West is the place where you offer a plan and get shot down. There are people who want to see a park built in this area and the founder of the One Human Family concept is promoting a plan that deserves some close attention. This is the site: where alternative plans are proposed. One of the issues with the amphitheater complex is the difficulty of access according to opponents. They note streets across Old Town are narrow and aren't designed to carry streams of traffic to and from a special event. This is the entrance to Truman Annex at Southard street which used to be the only access by car to the waterfront. The Truman Annex Master property owners Association wanted to build a gate here.
The city caved but the US Navy is made of sterner stuff and told TAMPOA No, in no uncertain terms. meanwhile the city built another access at the foot of Petronia Street. Petronia, seen here between Simonton and Duval is no great thoroughfare:Nor is it more than a lane as it heads west from Duval (photographed through the Bonneville's windshield):The access road from Petronia and Fort Streets is a tortuous affair winding past the soccer fields:At the end of ther access road one turns left for the Navy Base and right for the Truman Waterfront:The cruise ship can be seen at the Outer Mole beyond the Truman Waterfront. Petronia is a one way street and the sole block of Geraldine is now one way in the opposite direction taking traffic back to Emma Street past the red car shown below:

As you can see the 100 block of Geraldine is no great freeway:Whether or not access is so terribly difficult and complex will have to be decided but any reason to get rid of the overblown plans currently on the books works for me. Personally I'm happy just the way things are, but leaving well alone is not on the agenda.