Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Old Town Homes

Some changes are coming to Monroe County after the election. Long time County Commissioner Heather Carruthers has been ousted by a couple of hundred votes in the unofficial count, by Republican Eddie Martinez. The cruise ship ballots in Key West all won resoundingly. What that means in the short term is unclear but in the long run Key West is starting to turn away from mass tourism as wished by the mayor who already won her seat with 60% of the vote a few weeks ago. No runoff needed.
Florida
I walk around downtown and I see empty storefronts everywhere, so I wonder what will replace the businesses that have closed. Locals don't like to go to Duval Street not least because there is nothing there for people not on vacation.
Florida
Rents on Duval Street are astronomical, $30-$40 thousand dollars a month for modest storefronts which makes the prospects for small business without corporate backing pretty dim you would think. Beyond our local problems unemployment nationally is not great, stimulus checks are running out and rents in the Keys are very very high. So taking away more retail jobs is going to have a knock on effect on the make up of the city's population.
Florida

Key West has been through many boom and bust cycles since it was founded in 1828                                                                  Florida Keys

Florida Keys
In the 1960s the Navy reduced its presence in Key West and left gaping holes in the storefronts of Duval Street which created an opportunity for today's community leaders to buy up city  blocks cheap and slowly start a turn around. It's a question for the modern city of those same leaders are up to the challenge again now that the referendum is pushing Key West away from cruise ships and easy money downtown.
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I got an email from Webb Up North remarking he has seen a lot of advertising pushing the Florida Keys and Key West as vacation destinations using the slogan "Close to Paradise, Far from Normal," which is cute but the more time passes the less accurate that catchy slogan looks. Far from Paradise and Close to Normal seems to have been the path forward for some time as gentrification displaces eccentricity as the norm.
Florida Keys
Key West will find a way forward even if there is a financial glitch as the city reassess it's goals. Key West's fundamentals don't change, frost free weather, turquoise waters now promising to be more so with fewer large ships and a cleaner sparklier less shabby town for more high class visitors. 
Florida Keys

Florida Keys

For those looking to live  here on three part time jobs with no benefits to enjoy a few years of bohemian living in the tropics things will be stickier if not impossible. The Upper Keys import labor from the mainland which is an hour bus ride away. Key West is learning to create housing for a revolving corps of visitors who work. The cruise ship vote was won by people who do not depend on retail jobs fed by cruise ship passengers but by people who will need to look further afield and with greater creativity to find their chores taken care of by the working class. Minimum wage and an attic bed for a working stay in paradise? Far from normal indeed.