Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Interesting Article on Duval Street and Key West

Here's a timely article from the Miami Herald.

The comments posted after the article are most interesting. They give what may be a relatively unbiased overview of public perceptions of Key West.

Click on the link below.

Note: The link is no longer working (3-9-08). The article was about the fact that business revenues on Duval Street in Key West are "off" this season, and the supposed reasons for it. Among the reasons were stock market jitters, not as many "upscale" tourists, election year uncertainty, and so on.

The most instructive part of the article, however, was the comment section that followed it. Herewith we share a selection from those comments:


I stopped going to key west five years ago, it is just another tourist trap now. If I want to see million dollar condos, obnoxious cruise passengers, overpriced food and hotels, and terrible traffic I can just go to South Beach. Sorry, Key West you made your own bed ....
Over the top rents, junk shops and rude service hurt Duval St.

They did it to themselves with the high prices. You can get better rooms & food along with better beaches in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. And how can anyone make a living down there at $10 per hour?

Key West needs to return to its roots... Stop building luxury hotel resorts, because that is NOT what Key West is about. Key West is about Bed and Breakfast Inns, quaint little shops, family owned businesses, and authentic restaurants. Maybe then they wouldn't feel it as much as they do now...

Lower your rates/prices!! Duh.

"undergoing a metamorphosis that should bring in even more upscale visitors"
Luxury, upscale vacation & key west are oxymorons. When I think of Key West, I think middle class, laid back friendly people.

Bring back the $100 a night hotel rooms & you'll bring back tourism.

I live in North Miami. One of my favorite places is the Keys. I would travel, stay and spend more money if the hotels would not rip you off. They are just simply overpriced on a regular night. I understand the high occupancy will raise the price for a room on a busy night, but what about the rest of days? It is just dead there. Why not to promote the low rates to attract the locals?
If you lower the prices of the hotel rooms more people would come. I would go to Key West with my family at least 3 times a year, but now with the prices of the hotels being what they are, we opt out. It is a shame, I have always loved Key West for its atmosphere, now they want to go high end. Guess I'll stay in Miami and deal with South Beach for that. GOODBYE MARGARITAVILLE :(

My family & I were in Key West a couple months ago. We stopped at a fudge store on Duval, and for three pieces of fudge, a half-pound of fudge, and three sodas they wanted $95! We left. At that price they looked just fine sitting there in their showcase.

It sounds nice to knock down a $175 dollar a night hotel and exchange it for a $300 a night place? I can't afford that much just to have a place to sleep/shower etc. Get real.
I last visited KW in 1992 and it was a tourist town rip off back then! I wouldn't go back there to visit if they paid me.

''Tourism is our lifeblood,'' Panico said. ``This should make us appreciate our visitors, and be kinder to them.'' FORGET APPRECIATION & KINDNESS: YOU ALL NEED TO GET REALISTIC ABOUT THE PRICES YOU HAVE THE AUDACITY TO TRY TO CHARGE PEOPLE.

Key West has been gouging tourist for decades. In a free society the marketplace will dictate price. Perhaps the South Florida locals will be able to once again enjoy Key West.
Key West deserves what it gets!!!!! All they want is upscale FAT tourists. And what once was a nice place, now sucks!

Key West is a HUGE RIP OFF, only the RICH can afford the overpriced crap they shove in your face.

I lived in Cayo Hueso in the mid- to late-80's. I loved the feeling of being a "local" in a town that everyone wanted to visit. There were small jewelers, boutiques, and restaurants everywhere. I loved the feeling of being a "local" in a town that everyone wanted to visit. There were small jewelers, boutiques, and restaurants everywhere. We only walked or biked, unless we needed to buy groceries or do the laundry.

First, "they" wanted to build "The Reach," and lied to the City Commission and citizens with artist's renderings and reassurances that the property would be "in scale with the surrounding community." Then, it materialized as a mid-rise hotel towering over surrounding homes and streets.
Then, "they" approved the cruise ships that - as everyone knows - are the death knell for any quaint port town; just look at St. Thomas, Ocho Rios, and San Juan. All they do is disgorge overweight, pink American tourists that think "experiencing another culture" is walking around for a few hours, drinking and buying cheap t-shirts; then, they return to their ship to overeat and over drink with more American white folk. Incidentally, the grey water surrounding Key West that used to be crystal clear...that's due to the muck in 33-feet deep Key West harbor being churned up by the propellers of the ships that draw 30 feet of water...
"They" even killed a thriving local softball sub-culture with the sell-off of the park property on Eisenhower Blvd. to build townhouses.
Sadly, one of the most unique and historic communities in the US was turned into an overpriced, overcrowded carbon-copy of any other "Main Street" that just happens to be on an incredible little tropical island, saturated with typical American materialistic crap-merchants....

I'm really glad I got experience the uniqueness that was Key West before it was gobbled up and regurgitated by corporate America and "investors" looking for a quick buck, and local greed-heads infected by both.

Key West stopped being a destination of mine in the 90s when hotel rooms started to skyrocket. Paradise lost, just like the old Grove.

"Cheeseburger in Paradise"......$299.95

We've noticed a decline in Key West over the past ten years. My husband and I usually go once a year, because it's where we met. Our last anniversary it seemed depressing. I really wanted to buy something in the shops, but the merchandising really went down hill (unless of course you want to buy a tee shirt). It needs to get back on the edge, revamp and create events that will attract a more affluent crowds, not just people looking to get drunk and destroy property. They should encourage more local artists, reach out to the community and even expand into Miami. It's close enough to be a great weekend get away for locals.

Overpriced LUXURY killed Key West ya Moron! Its fun to see old school shops and the people who run them, that was always the fun part of travel. Now with everything upscale what’s the point of going to KW?...I can get the same high priced crap 5 miles away.

We flew into Miami and drove down after being away for 10 years...What a shame. As said above there is no old KW left.. Just tacky cotton candy and Tshirts..We drove around for 5 minutes and left. We drove back to....I'm not going to say, as there is very few places left and not wanting the herd ruining that also......

For many years, I travel on business to the Keys on a yearly basis. This is what I see:
* Rudeness at local Restaurants, and Bars..
* Condos for the Super Wealthy
* Hotels are being taken out for Condos..less for tourist to stay.
* No Jobs for locals
* Sad locals and pissed off most of the time..
* Lost 'Old Keys' island flavor of Fun
* No Local Housing available.
* Food not the best as before..
* Hate for Tourist.?
* Too much building going on..(I guess soon even Mr. Trump will have many Super Resorts)
* No Jobs for locals.

Will the Keys be like Miami Beach. All Hotels and no Ocean to see?
Places like the new Parrot Key Resort opening in March 2008 are what is becoming the death of towns like Key West. Look what happened to Aspen when the developers found it. There's another monstrosity that was built at the Triangle that has like 200 condos that are no bigger than a a broom closet. And for what purpose? So rude tourists can come down here and tramp all over our island and make it more like where they came from. Then why not just stay home? I remember the Key West of the eighties when I started visiting as a teenager. It wasn't so bad then and still had some charm. You could still afford to buy a reasonable priced home for your family. And now the smallest, run down shack starts at $1.5 million! And officials down here wonder why they can't keep families here. I give Key West another ten years and it will be just like Aspen, CO...another overpriced, overdeveloped town that was once cute and unique.

Could this downturn possibly be linked with the run-down, dirty, tacky, run-of-the-mill ambience of the once quaint Key? It is such a different island from 15 years ago. There is no special allure left. Take a walk down any of the Old Town streets and see the tackiness and garbage. With the economy as it is, the new luxury condos will be wanting renters in a big way very soon. Don't listen to the "condo condors" claims of a booming business. Same-o, same-o.


I have lived in Key West forever and if people would not have been so greedy things would have stayed near the same. Everything was running smooth until greed stepped in. I hope people will learn a lesson from these mistakes.

After having spent only a few days in Key West back in 2000, I was enamored with the place, considering it one of the few towns in the USA I could imagine retiring to (I've lived in the south of France for the past 30 years). From what I read in this article and comments, KW is on a downhill course. I'm saddened to hear it. Before I write it off definitively, I'll have a look for myself, but I'm not too optimistic.

As Bob Kelly has reminded us:

"O wad some Power the giftie gie us ...
To see oursels as ithers see us!"

I realize that many of these comments are on the negative side, but I am reminded of some of the commentary I heard in Marathon in the early 70's, when the "high-rolling" set decided en masse that "Marathon is a dump," (rather than the quaint fishing village it had been presupposed to be), and abandoned it, leading to the forty-year decline which followed.

With Castro retiring, and access to cheaper land, warmer winter weather, better beaches, and cool mountain air in Cuba realistically just a few years away, the "powers that be" in Key West ought to take a much-needed look at what they still have here, and what they can do to persuade people to continue to be interested in visiting here, not to mention living and working here.

The fact that is does not snow in February is not going to be enough to save the Keys, if present trends continue.

What's With This? II

19 year old freshman college student Nicholas Garza of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been missing from the Middlebury College campus in Middlebury, Vermont, since February 5th.
He was last seen going from one dormitory building to another in the rural Vermont campus around 11 PM. His absence was not noted at first, because most of his acquaintances or friends assumed that he had gone on a three day camping trip with other students.
The campus, snow covered at this time of year, has been searched by volunteers and professionals. Garza's winter coat and personal items were left in his room.
Authorities and other students are baffled over his disappearance. His family has offered a reward for information leading to finding out what happened to him.
The snow did not appear deep enough to hide a human body, at least in most areas shown in news photos and videos.
This is not the only case of missing people recently, but it stands out in that this appearance seems to be completely baffling. This young man was not reported to be unhappy or given to unpredictable behavior. He had been in regular communication with his family. The Middlebury College campus is in a relatively crime-free rural community. His family has a web site at http://www.nicholasgarza.org/ .
April 20, 2008 Update....
It's now two and a half months since this college sudent went missing. The snow cover is now melting, and a concerted search is scheduled for next weekend. So far no one has come forward with information on this baffling case.

More from Bob Kelly

Bob Kelly ( http://therealkeywest.blogspot.com/ ) has consistently taken a lead role in keeping the citizens of Key West informed on important issues.
There are some that say that the story of Truman Annex, as far as the Key West community is concerned, is a sad tale of broken promises. We can only hope that the final settlement outlined below will not be a continuation of that long, sad tale.

Short notice, I know, but the City Commission will consider approval of settlement agreement with TAMPOA at tonight's Commission Meeting, 6:00 PM at Old City Hall. (March 4, 2008).

Here's a letter from one Bahama Village resident outlining her concerns that the proposed agreement still doesn't address the concerns of Bahama village residents and that it still isn't fair to the residents of Key West.

Dear Friends,

They're baaaack.

At tomorrow evening's City Commission meeting the Truman Annex Property Owner'sAssociation is requesting the Commissioners vote to permit them to put a gate atSouthard St.

Their request sounds so reasonable; that they only want to restrict traffic at certain hours. But they don't own Southard St. and have no right to block a public street, as neither you nor I can decide we don't like traffic on our street so let's put up a gate toblock it. Pardon me if I am suspicious that this is only the foot in the door of their long-range plan to direct all traffic through the streets of Bahama Village - where the streets are narrowand where children still ride their bicycles, and away from the gated communityof Truman Annex and where there are predominantly part-time winter residents, renters, and virtually no children or community. Not only does Truman Annex want to restrict access, they want the City of KeyWest to maintain it for them. And, they want 2 other streets built withn 6 months for entry and exit to theWaterfront. At issue, though, is who owns Southard St.City Attorney believes that the City cannot prove ownership because of the transfer agreement granted when Truman Annex was first built, and that title insurance was obtained on Southard St. by TAMPOA. However, for those in attendance at prior a Commission meeting, developer Pritam Singh stated publically that at no time was private ownership of Southard St. ever contemplated or sought. And, despite repeated requests, the attorney and residents of Truman Annex only proof is that transfer agreement and a title insurance policy they obtained as their claim of ownership of Southard St. It is very important that there be a strong showing from the Citizens of the City of KeyWest at this meeting tomorrow evening to let our Commissioners know what a terrible precedent giving permission to put a gate up on Southard St. sets.I personally fail to understand why they need a gate when they already have a guard houseand security personnel. If at all possible, and you have an opposition to ceding a public street to a private interest, please attend - or write a quick letter and deliver it to City Clerk Cherie Smith for reading into the records. Thanks!


I have mixed feelings on the proposed settlement. TAMPOA concedes that Southard Street can be used for two-way traffic during the hours of 6 A.M. to 10 P.M., and other minor concessions. However, the City concedes that TAMPOA has the right to place gates on both ends of the short stretch between Thomas Street and the Truman Waterfront park and to control access through the gates between 10 P.M. and 6 A.M. There are rumors about that the Navy will step in and ban the gates, but there is no official statement to that effect. The discussion is sure to be heated and I can't predict what the outcome will be. My concern is that the continued litigation will continue to affect development of the Waterfront Park, something I hope to see in my lifetime.
Stay tuned.

Message from Bob Kelly

Bob Kelly, through his web site The Real Key West (http://therealkeywest.blogspot.com/ ),
provides a real public service in keeping Key Westers informed on important issues. He is correct in that a Land Development Regulation cannot be changed by a "resolution" of the City Commission. Any changes must first be vetted by the Planning Board to be sure that they are "consistent with the Principles for Guiding Development for the City of Key West," and then must be reviewed by the state Department of Community Affairs.

I was a Planning Board member when the "transfer ordinance" came up for consideration, and I recall that we reworked it considerably.

The proposed transfer of transient licenses from Pritam Singh's Parrot Bay Resort and Condominiums on North Roosevelt Boulevard (the former Hampton Inn) to fourteen properties in Old Town, nine of them owned by one of Ed Swift's companies on Simonton and Dey Streets, is once again on the Planning Board's agenda on March 20th.

Singh and Swift have been trying to pull off this switch since last Fall but haven't been able to get an up or down vote from the PB. They pulled the application from the agenda at the last minute in the last two Planning Board meetings, apparently recognizing that they don'thave the votes for approval. Last Stand has now filed a suit against the transfers, seeking to have the transfers declared illegal, since the Code of Ordinances and Land Development Regulations don't permit transfers out of zoning districts where transient licenses are already permitted. The developers are relying on an approval of these transfers in the development agreement for Parrot Bay, granted in 2006 under a previous City Commission. However, the development agreement was approved in a resolution, and amendment of LDR's via resolution is not legal.

Many of the subscribers to this list have been out front on the issue of transient licenses for as long as I can remember. The Planning Board meeting on the 20th is another opportunity to tell the board that we don't want transient licenses to be used to extinguish rental housing and especially in Old Town. I hope that many of you will come.