To integrate or not to integrate… Two schools of urbanism are at war over plans for redevelopment of former Navy housing at Peary Court. The process of permitting the latest plan for 208 new residential units began last Monday with a 4-hour debate before HARC (Historical Architectural Review Commission).
“We want to fully integrate Peary Court into the rest of the community,” says Bernard Zyscovich, architect for the owners of Peary Court. However, that “integration plan” once again didn’t include the continuation of the street grid into and through Peary Court. Zyscovich’s current plan consists of 24 acres of manicured, landscaped, and fenced up neighborhood with one main road making a large loop through the property and exiting several hundred feet from where it started on White street.
Lee Dunn is certainly entitled to his opinion about the Peary Court redevelopment plan. But to say that “White Street Partners [is] sneaking in under the radar” is far from the truth, as are his statements that “With the exception of two 8 inch by 10 inch placards affixed obscurely to the existing Peary Court fence, there has been NO notice given to the public” and “ NO meetings with the general public as promised last year when their original plans were shut down.”
On Feb. 13, 2013, shortly after “the original plans were shut down” (i.e., withdrawn at a HARC meeting), I received and immediately responded to an inquiry from Tharon Dunn concerning the planning process going forward. On Feb. 24, I received an e-mail from neighborhood spokesman Steve Dawkins, who also requested a description of the process going forward, to which I immediately responded. That information was, in turn, circulated among the many neighbors on Steve’s Peary Court e-mail blast list. Continue reading
White Street Partners is sneaking in under the radar…again… with a new plan to develop Peary Court. With the exception of two 8 inch by 10 inch placards affixed obscurely to the existing Peary Court fence, there has been NO notice given to the public regarding their highly evolved plans to create an unprecedented 24 acre “Olde Towne” development at Peary Court. There has been NO official notice in anything of record, NO articles in the local newspapers, NO mention on radio or TV or the internet, NO meetings with the general public as promised last year when their original plans were shut down. And yet, on this coming Monday evening at 5:30 PM at the Old City Hall on Greene Street, HARC will review this massive proposal and make a decision to give it the green light. I’m not kidding. This whole proposal, one shot by HARC, this Monday night.
How can this be? How can a project of of this scale in the middle of and at the gateway to Old Town get so far with so little oversight?
In a last minute meeting this Sunday arranged at great effort by Meadows residents with WSP representatives (Donna Bosold, formerly of HARC, and Jim Hendricks, formerly face man for Pritam Singh at Truman Annex), we were shown only small scale plot plans of their new proposal. They felt the architectural drawings were too complicated for them, and certainly for us, to understand, and were therefore deliberately with held. Continue reading
I live across the street from Peary Court. I often sit on my front porch and watch the sun rise. Sometimes I sit on the porch and watch the after work hustle around town in the late afternoon.
As I gaze across the street I see neat little complex of housing behind an historic military fence. I see many younger working people coming and going about their business. I see children playing in relative safety from traffic and strangers, I see dogs and their owners, running loose in the grassy areas, enjoying the outdoors in a peaceful and playful manner. I see older folks walking their dogs, and even a leashed cat or two, under the mature trees, the owners with their little bags to clean up after their pets. I can see that some of the families are military, by their working clothes, and some are not. Regardless of the controversial history of the property and its use, it doesn’t matter to me. The prime thing I see is regular working class folks enjoying a nice peaceful and affordable (by old Key West standards). rental property. It presents itself as a nice place to live. All safe, decent, and affordable, and all rentals, for working folks, young and old.
We desperately need more of this kind of community atmosphere in Key West, not less. But, as current plans move ahead, we will soon be losing what little we have, already in place at Peary Court. The new owners want the buildings to be razed, only to be replaced by new houses for sale at new Key West prices, some allegedly “affordable” to some buyers, with yet another property owners association to control their assets; no rental housing is anticipated. Why must it always be about ownership and making more money?
Peary Court park, circa 1990
NOTE: For years, the large piece of undeveloped Navy property at White Street and Palm Avenue was used as a park by Key Westers. So when the Navy announced that the property, known as Peary Court, was to be developed for military housing, many locals protested. They argued that the Navy really didn’t need any more housing in Key West and, in fact, was in the process of reducing its presence in here. But it was a hard argument to win. The Navy owned the property and that was that. And construction began in 1993. But former City Commissioner Harry Powell apparently felt stronger about the issue than other protesters. On January 13, 1994, Powell showed up at the construction site and barricaded himself inside of a construction trailer with explosives strapped around his chest. He said he would give himself up if he received assurances that the decision to develop Peary Court would be reviewed by top brass in Washington. Finally, after an all-day standoff, somebody promised Harry that the already-underway development would be reviewed. He was arrested, tried and spent nearly a year in prison.
From the beginning, however, there was the question, “Was Harry Powell right?” Below is a re-publication of a page one commentary published in Key West The Newspaper on February 25, 1994. The author is former City Commissioner George Halloran. More recently, the question may have been answered more definitively when the Navy signed an agreement with a private company to lease units at Peary Court to civilians.
ONE THOUSAND HARRY POWELLS!
by George Halloran
It is 3:30 in the morning and this thing has taken me from a sound sleep to a computer rage. “Wait until morning,” said the body. “No! Get your lazy ass out of bed now” said the brain, “while it is still legal in Key West to say the words PEARY COURT.” The dream had been of Harry Powell, and now I realize there should be one hundred Harry Powells. One thousand! The streets of Key West should be full of us, marching, chanting, shouting about the biggest display of waste and deceit in a decade. Every journalist in the city should be making this a career. We are literally inside of a huge government coverup, every bit as slimy as Warergate, just as outrageous as a $ 200 hammer or a $ 5000 toilet. As scary as Uncle Sam feeding LSD and nuclear waste to unwitting human guinea pigs. Continue reading
WHAT IS BEST FOR THE DEVELOPER IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT IS BEST FOR THE CITY
Thirty years ago Key West city planners and a few city commissioners attended a symposium about how cities gaining access to former military property should handle their new acreage. This was just before the Truman Annex was finally sold to private developer Pritam Singh and well before his plans for redevelopment were drawn.
One of the things I remember clearly from that meeting was the strong recommendation that conversions to private land from military should do away with high security aspects, and return the property to a normal city grid. That meant extend existing or former streets through the area prior to building new houses. We were told that welcoming the property back to public street access would recreate the feeling of a normal neighborhood and a much healthier community overall. This advice was based on research and experience with many reclaimed properties around the country.
Unfortunately, these guidelines were not followed at Truman Annex. The Presidential Gates Pritam Singh publicly vowed would “never close again” were indeed closed; Continue reading
What do the redevelopment of Peary Court and Trayvon Martin’s tragic death have in common? With the soul searching shockwaves that the Zimmerman trial has sent though our world, both raise the question of the social impacts of gated communities.
“One of the many pitfalls of adding more gated communities that want to separate themselves from “those people”, says Commissioner Clayton Lopez, “ is that they ripen the situation for something like the Trayvon Martin tragedy to happen.”
In spite of public declarations about “fully integrating” Peary Court into the surrounding neighborhoods, White Street Partners, the developers of Peary Court, have presented plans which in effect would create a new gated community.
At the public meeting on June 27th, at the Harvey Government Center, White Street Partners’ architect, Bernard Zyscovich revealed a blueprint showing plans to close the existing entrance on Palm Avenue and to erect an uninterrupted fence beginning on Eaton Street, running the length of Palm Avenue, down Eisenhower and [after discussion] also along Angela Street.
Plans to “integrate” Peary Court do not include continuation of the existing street grid either. The plans showed the only road open to vehicular traffic would simply loop Fleming Street back into Southard.
“Nobody would take that street,” said Zyscovich, “If they get in by accident, they’re never going to do it again because they are going to end up exactly where they started.”
“If there were one ingress and egress – a road to nowhere, “ says Commissioner Tony Yaniz,
“that to me, would be a defacto gated community even if there were no gates… I would like to see Peary Court with through streets, and no gates.” Continue reading