A story I judged to be somewhat incomplete caught my eye in the newspaper and I am still wondering what it means. The bare facts as reported in the Citizen indicate the would-be developers of the elderly, inexpensive and somewhat shabby motel and hostel on South Street are having difficulty finding funding for their project.
The Soni family wants to replace the Seashell at 718 South with a modern eco-lodge as depicted in my rather poor reproduction from the newspaper article. The construction was supposed to have begun a year ago but the developers got an extension on their project and now are asking for another. The reason is only hinted at but it seems they are having trouble raising money to create their new hostelry, which feels like a first in development-mad Key West.
The Soni family earned high marks as contributors to the community in newspaper interviews with city commissioners. Based I suppose on their conversion of the elderly and ratty El Rancho Motel on Truman Avenue into the modern energy conserving Silver Palms. I snagged this picture of the El Rancho in 2009 as it was being torn down. It was a classic 1950s motel except it was showcased on the main drag into town.
Now it looks like this, or it did when the Silver Palms was brand new in the summer of 2010. It has actually held up quite well with its energy and water conservation schemes. You'd think it would be a no brainer for the owners of the Seashell to pull off the same feat a second time, but not so.
Is it because the NIMBY wealthy community of Casa Marina doesn't want a "giant" new hotel in their well-to-do area? Apparently in part the newspaper says. No funding yet, say the developers. No permits says the Historic Architecture Review Commission, to which the city commissioners respond that owing to a technicality they get to give permission first for this particular Old Town Project. But there are murmurings on the commission, faithfully reproduced in the paper hinting that this new hotel will never happen. Why not? Therein lies the mystery.