Friday, November 22, 2019

Mall on Duval

Mallory Square upon my return from a trip round the bars (not into them for heaven's sake! I had my poor innocent dog with me.) I saw "two couples enjoying the moment." I thought it was a funny caption but the pigeons looked at me balefully as pigeons do, while the humans kept walking. 
Joking aside I read in the newspaper recently that the City Commission barely managed to muster the votes to have another season of Mall on Duval  It's taken a  fair bit of discussion and debate to test drive the program which closes  down a couple of blocks of Duval Street to traffic and allows pedestrians to mingle and sit at tables outdoors on the street. It was an implementation of the not very radical notion that pedestrian zones boost downtown businesses.
Of course Key West manages to buck every trend ever  and the newspaper says many of the previously supportive Duval Street businesses now want the program to end. They say the pedestrian zone is hurting business not helping and they put their case to the city commission which had to authorize the pedestrian program once again.
Three of the four members of the commission voted against it but Mall on Duval will take place every other Friday and Saturday until February 17th when the program will close and be evaluated. Shutting down an open air street event in the middle of winter at the height of tourist season only makes sense to commissioners of the Southernmost City. Last year the program ran from February to July and was considered a massive success. Now suddenly it is on life support.
There was an issue with cost as the city was paying $5000 each weekend for police off duty to patrol the event until somebody figured out this isn't a high risk gathering requiring a police presence and that expense was cut, allowing the Mall on Duval to press ahead.
Now the plan is to take away a program once seen as a great way to encourage locals downtown, to keep people in the area and to support the image of a street that really might be at the heart of the city.  One has to wonder what could save it and keep it going after February 17th next year.