Monday, August 31, 2015

Truman Waterfront Construction

34 acres of waterfront open space were handed to the city on a platter 13 years ago and now at last there is a plan to build- a toilet!
When I lived in California my congressional representative suggested creating a commission to gradually reduce the number of US military bases in a post-Cold War world. As a result one of the first actions of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission was to close down the biggest base in Congressman Leon Panetta's district and that spelled the end of Fort Ord on Monterey Bay. BRAC also chose to hand the city of Key West the open space shown below in a web picture, between Fort Zachary and Truman Annex. Since then the military has been cleaning up the land and the city has been pondering what to do with it. Beyond one imagines, building a toilet.
Good citizens worry that the $225,000 toilet will become a magnet for street bums. Indeed much of the city's open space philosophy is directed not at serving residents but at thwarting the residentially challenged. Thus if you plan an expedition to a park you'd better take your own furniture. I suppose in the future thwarting the bums will be an issue.
The  white wedding cake is former Navy officer housing from the good old days when submarines tied up at the inner mole and now they are expensive condos on the other side of the fence. However Key West attracts all sorts of people in winter and don't ask me how they migrate when they don't appear to have two beans to rub together. Its all part of Key Weird, millionaires overlooking a field currently filled with RVs trying to camp illegally and a park one day to be filled with who knows who.
I like Truman Waterfront the way it is not least because it is an area in transition so you can do what you want here (within reason obviously). People walk, ride bikes, take their dogs out for a run, park their cars and take lunch breaks here. For me it is a reprieve between eras, the before when there was Navy control represented by the old guardhouse, nowadays no longer there, and the after when the formal park will be created and activity areas will be properly defined:
 There are two access roads the main one being through Truman Annex on Southard Street which the gated community tried to have closed, but which attempt was thwarted by the Navy which threatened legal mayhem unless the street was kept open. The city quavered and wavered and said nothing when the gate was being installed to close a city street; luckily the Navy had the more robust reaction to being denied truck access to it's  base.
This photo below is from the Key West Diary files but I still take Cheyenne walking in the area from time to time.  It's a very pleasant walk along the water and through the grassy areas. 
The Navy has had to clean up the soil and make it fit for civilian use, trucking off tons of contaminated soil debris. So now the land use is becoming more intensely debated. There was a plan to put six and half acres into use as an old folks' home on the waterfront, to keep a promise to the Bahama Village (African American) community to house their elders close to their families. That plan went over like a lead balloon and I've lost track of the outcome of the heated debate but I think in the end the answer was "no" to "wasting" waterfront land for old folks' use.  I thought the whole debate was rather unbecoming. The only facility currently in use is on Stock Island five miles away which is a long way for people who live in Key West and I think Bayshore Manor has a long waiting list. But there are no signs of action on the subject here. 
The other thing that the developers led by the redoubtable, indefatigable, ubiquitous Spottswood family was the plan for an upscale marina (their words) along the waterfront here:
Their idea was to have the city pay to build it, the Spottwoods would operate it and pay the city a pittance out of the taking to cover the costs, they said, of running the new park. That plan was scotched once again by the Navy who figure in this narrative as city saviors more than once, The Navy said they had decided to keep control of the waters of the basin for use solely by government ships unless temporary permission were granted by them. Thus no marina. Yay! Here were the plans published in the Citizen:
What to do with the open space has been a bit of a conundrum. An open market lasted no time at all. They have suggested a covered farmer's market inside the old Navy storage building. Others want to create parkland with gardens but the people in charge want maximum use and maximum efficiency which leads inevitably to maximum income. 
It is gloriously void of purpose at the moment, a special treat in an over developed very small town like Key West.. 

It can't  stay this way forever as I have been whispering to myself for a decade...but so far so good.