Upscale Plans Don’t Fit The Mold In The Conch Republic
Redevelop Duval Street in Key West?
Would Paris redevelop the Champs-Élysées? Would London re-touch Abbey Road, New York mess with Broadway?
Then why in the world is Key West messing with its iconic street?
A redevelopment plan is in place and a company has been hired to re-create a place long on character (and characters) and short on fancy touches.
Yet that is what is in the works for the main street of the Conch Republic. And from what I’ve seen and read, I don’t like it.
And you know why? It doesn’t fit Key West. It’s like having the Overseas Highway surrounded by a forest, putting Jimmy Buffett music to rap.
“Imagine art suspended along the middle of Duval Street coaxing visitors to explore the entire street, the paths with shade trees, with flexibility for all modes of transportation,” is how the developer, KCI Technologies, described it.
I just love the phrase “coaxing visitors to explore.” The artist’s rendering shows drab grey buildings and a drab-looking grey covering over a sidewalk that is supposed to – I suppose – resemble a rolling wave. (Key West doesn’t have big rollers like, say Hawaii, by the way; rather the water almost trickles up to the beach.)
The design has none of the “Key West porch” style of architecture that has so defined this area for decades.
“Suspended art?” That reeks of what too many cities around the world install that add no aesthetic value. They are usually shiny or odd-shaped pieces of artwork with designs that nobody can figure out that have nothing to do with the area in which they are placed.
The idea, according to Key West Mayor Teri Johnston, is to make the place more upscale. Attract an older, wealthier traveler to town than what goes there now. Which is to say people who prefer to wear flip flops than Gucci shoes. (I suspect this more upscale mentality will cause hotel room prices to skyrocket and they are already in the $200-350/night range.)
Key West is a place for individualists, off-beat characters and the free spirits who go there to lose themselves in a timeless tropical paradise. It it old-school, not modern and, not stylist chic.
Key West is, well, Key West. Not Monaco or the coast of Marseille (had to throw that in there for Buffett fans). Speaking of Buffett, I doubt he would approve of this makeover, either. Certainly not in his Conch Republic hangout days.
And, heaven forbid, what would former Key West Mayor Captain Tony say about all this change? Probably the same as a lot of those frequent Key West travelers who have started a petition to stop this development: “No! No way!”
Brittany Mira says
This article is full of misinformation. All of the famous streets described at the start have all been redone throughout history, any road as old as those would be. You could have easily gone to the Wikipedia articles on them, the easiest form of research, to get a brief history on how these roads have changed throughout time. Even the most famous part of Broadway, Times Square has gone through renovations as recently as 2016 when the completion of the permanent pedestrian zones occurred. That’s right, Times Square’s famous pedestrian area was not completed until the mid-2010’s! The only constant in life is change.
The whole photo that has started this controversy has also been taken completely out of context. It was meant as one potential design during the proposing of the project. KCI technologies was chosen for the project because of their dedication to listening to public opinion. They will be several public workshops before they even begin to make the actual design. We can either work with them to revitalize Duval while keeping its unique character or stop it from ever happening. From my understanding, they will not be taking down any buildings, but focusing more on the public areas such as the sidewalks and road to create an area that will not only attract more tourists, but also locals. I cannot wait to begin working with them and I hope that this showboating against change from people who refuse to do any learning will end.
Thank you for your comment! Times Square was intentionally not mentioned because it has undergone a change – and one for the better. Yes, places need to evolve but Duval Street needs to keep its character. Fancy “hanging artwork” is not at all Key West. Regarding the KCI Technologies photo it should publish all its renderings. Believe me, we looked for more before publishing this article and could not find any, even fishing through the company’s website. All that being said whatever change does happen, let’s hope it is for the better while maintaining the character of the Conch Republic. Cheers!