Have YOUR voice be heard about Duvall Street

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city.

A Duvall Street revitalization meeting is coming up at the Gato Center.

Johnston said, “We are going to have our second public meeting for the Duvall Street revitalization and it’s going to be Thursday, April 4, it will be at the Gato Building at 1100 Simonton Street. This workshop is going to be broken into two different sessions from 9am until noon, the session will focus for business owners and property owners on Wall Street. Because clearly, you know they have they have some different issues, we want to make sure that we can get this revitalization done and to have as small of an impact on their day to day business as possible. Then from 3 to 6, we will be opening it up to the general public, who have been very, very forthcoming with their opinions about Duvall Street and what they would like to see. When we did the citizens survey for our strategic plan, over 70% of our residents said yes, we would like a Duvall Street that we have the capabilities of closing it down to have a pedestrian street in certain blocks or the entire street. But they were very interested in how we’re going to improve and enhance Duvall Street. There are two components to this. One is resiliency. Because as we all know, that iconic street floods very badly. So we’ve got to do some work there in order to move that water away and keep those businesses dry and keep people on that street. The second thing is to make it a really pleasant street to stroll down. Landscaping, it’s a very hot street at two o’clock in the afternoon. So we need some shade. We need public restrooms, we need wide sidewalks in order for people to stroll along there. We public water fountains and benches to sit on. So we’ve got a great opportunity to just take a great street and make it even better.”

The bond program for infrastructure is another discussion point.

Johnston said, “I’m very excited about that. People have said, well, why can’t we fix our potholes? Why can’t we fix our streets? Why don’t we have a sidewalk here? Why don’t we have an enhanced Bayview Park? It all really comes down to money. We’ve had a history here in the city of Key West of saving, saving, saving, saving, saving until we can finally afford a project. But the problem is by the time we can afford it, it’s five years down the road and it’s increased in price by 75% So, what we would like to do is we would like to bond. We would like to have a general obligation bond. It will come out to the public for a referendum. We will have a number of sessions prior to that, to explain what we want to do, how we want to improve the city, how we want to improve quality of life, and our community for all of our residents. So we would like to come out and educate people on what it costs us to actually redo a street. We’ve got some fascinating numbers, kind of shocking numbers. United Street project, we did 10 blocks of United Street, those blocks when you do the road, when you do the curb and gutter, when you do the sidewalk, it costs us about $707,000 a block. So those prices have just raised exponentially, as have many prices, particularly after COVID. But I think that’s probably the area that we’ve seen the most rapid increase. It’s also the area that people notice the most. I mean, you get in your car, and you drive to work and you experience these conditions. So they’re in people’s minds all the time. We have an opportunity to improve that and we have an opportunity to improve it while you’re here in Key West. So we would like to do that. We’re going to be very transparent and open and let everybody know what we’re dealing with here in the city of Key West and how we can improve our conditions rapidly by bonding out. The city of Key West, we have excellent, excellent credit. So that that will not be an issue for us. But we do need to do a great deal of education. We hope that people in the city of Key West will have a great deal of faith in our city manager and city staff in order to move this forward and just to create a terrific Key West.”

The Tourist Development Council has been in the news recently.  

Johnston said, “I believe it’s Visit Florida, that’s the entity that actually runs the day to day operations of TDC. As Mayor of Key West, I sit on that board, I’ve sat on that board since 2018. I sit on there with Mayor Raschein and seven other members of the business community up and down the Keys. It’s been a controversial topic. We are we are taking a look at the third and final audit is wrapping up now. So we’re going to have some decisions to make. I don’t think that anyone would disagree that there has been a significant amount of public trust lost and concern in the area of the TDC. Our job is to take a look, make some decisions, and move forward. Tourism will always be the lifeblood of the Keys and we want to make sure that we are handling tourism correctly. Tourism really differs as you move up and down the Keys. Key West has been the hub of tourism for many, many years and now we’re probably in a different spot than many other parts of the Florida Keys.”

It’s possible there may be a search for a new company to run the TDC.

Johnston said, “There could very well be, but we’ll sit down as a board. We’ll discuss it. The BOCC will also discuss this and I’m sure in the end we will make the appropriate moves to work to restore the confidence in the TDC and move forward and make the Florida Keys a wonderful spot to visit.”