by Ben Volpian…….
Occasionally when I run into someone I know, instead of commenting on the weather or other small talk, they will ask me how are things going at the Truman Waterfront Park. My reply varies, but sometimes I will say something like, “Well, that’s a good question, and if you have a couple of hours I’ll go over it with you.” I’m just kidding around with them and they know it because we both know that the question, “how are things going,” is just a part of a friendly greeting between friends. But at the same time, I’m serious with my answer that if you have the time, I’ll go over what’s going on down there with my perspectives.
But, how are things going at the Truman Waterfront Park? As many know, there is a lot of infrastructure work being done now with drainage, leveling, roads, curbs, sidewalks and more, and the area is starting to make a shape. Part of this work can be best viewed from higher up on the deck of the USCGC Ingham, which is moored at the Quay inner mole right across from where Building 103 is located.
Okay, the infrastructure is one thing, but right now at the Park there are five major issues to be settled: 1) How to keep the present design or redesign Building 103 so that it will be sufficiently functional and revenue producing while satisfying HARC’s disputed claim that it is a historical building; 2) Renovate or demolish what is known as the Police Athletic League (PAL) building, which is also where the Police Department’s Horse Stables and horses are; 3) Keep the present recreation field, Gilleran Field, aka the Petronia Street Field or Fort Street Field, as it is or build townhouses or whatever there; 4) Leave as much area as possible for open space at Parcel C, which is right across the street from where the Amphitheater will be located; 5) Whether or not people want the Park to be truly an actual Key West park or a building development (or to be perfectly fair, a partial or in large part a building development).
I’m not big on clichés when writing, but will use them at times and the above five major issues bring 2 to mind: “Lead, follow or get out of the way,” and “Do something, do anything, just do something.” Easy enough, right? Well, no, because quite a few people are convinced that their idea is best, and although they might compromise somewhat, they will not back down in some regards.
Let’s do a simple evaluation of the above numbers 1) through 5):
1) So far, HARC says Building 103 is a historic building, while I and others, including Key West’s most noted and revered historian, claim the building shouldn’t be considered historic. And as a matter of fact, other buildings that once surrounded Building 103 have already been demolished. Why is this a big deal? Because HARC wants the building to keep its present design, windows and all, and footprint which would make it very difficult to increase seating capacity, would probably also limit viewing to the outside, detract from its aesthetics and could cause a loss of its potential revenue.
2) The PAL building: Spend $1 million to $1.5 million and you have what I was told would be an $8 million building that also has a beautiful, large “front yard open space area” and on the side has more open space to store or park various vehicles, boats, light and heavy equipment, etc. Plus, the Horse Stables and horses are kept in the rear of the building, so if the building goes where do the horses go? Stock Island or where, tell me.
3) Gilleran Field – A beautiful open area recreation field that is in the PERFECT place to enhance the quality of life for residents in that area for its open space beauty and as a recreation area for one-and-all. Walk, ride a bike or drive slowly as you turn off of Duval St. when you get to Petronia St. and look straight ahead as you approach Gilleran Field – and you might then understand what I mean by keeping this field to “enhance the quality of life.” As time goes on, this land will be much more valuable for what it is now than a bunch of townhouses, imo.
4) Parcel C – Don’t build it out, leave the open space there and plant some trees. In my ‘Park Plan’ I did suggest that 5 somewhat smaller 2 story Conch style houses could be built across the street from the Eco Building, which would give you a total of 10 commercial rentals that could not only bring in revenue for the city as a whole, but also through negotiations “some” revenue could possibly go into the Tax Incremental Funding (TIF) fund as a revenue stream for the area known as Bahama Village. That would be a tough sell, though, and probably won’t ever happen, and due to the re-routing of the road leading to the State Park, that area’s open space has already been reduced.
5) Keep the Park a park with as much open space as possible, and don’t build the area out with dozens of townhouses and numerous commercial buildings throughout.
So, that brings us back to the 2 cliches, “Lead, follow or get out of the way,” and “Do something, do anything, just do something.” I can see where someone would say, Why should I get out of the way, why doesn’t “HE” get out of the way? And I agree that they would have a good point, because after all, we all have opinions. But to “do anything” even if it is wrong, now there’s where you’d get an argument from me, and I’d hate to be known as the person who was responsible for taking the last open spaces in “our” park and city and building them out. But, most or all of us won’t be around when kids, grand kids, great-great grand kids and on-and-on ask the questions: How come there aren’t any open spaces left in Key West and this park. How come they let that happen? What were they thinking?
Although I am a Truman Waterfront Park Advisory Board member, my comments here are as a private citizen, and a big part of my goal for the Waterfront area is to not only preserve some of our last remaining open spaces for the present, but also for future generations of Key Westers and our guests to have something that will enhance their quality of life, and to allow them to be able to enjoy the wide open spaces of a park in the year 2066 and beyond.