A World Powerboat Museum at the Historic Diesel Power Plant?

by Amber Nolan

There are two resolutions to be heard during Key West’s City Commission meeting on Tuesday regarding what to do with the old diesel generating plant located at 100 Angela/Geraldine Street.

The First Resolution

The five buildings that make up the plant (which transformed from a gas plant to an electric plant), have different dates of construction ranging from circa 1883 through the 1950s. In November 2016, the City of Key West took ownership of the property from Keys Energy Services after a referendum was held.

The structures have been abandoned and neglected for more than 50 years. The City’s Chief Building Official deemed all but buildings 1 and 2 unsafe and last February ordered them demolished by June 1, 2019.

This caused a bit of an uproar and the City Commission decided to ask for the opinion of its Historic Architectural Review Commission (HARC).

The first resolution will simply thank HARC for their input, which recognizes buildings 1, 2, 3a and 4, as part of period of historic significance and recommends that they be rehabilitated.

When referring to appropriate uses for the buildings, HARC suggests: “Ideally, the machinery will be preserved inside of the buildings with an interactive educational program about history of energy production through today’s technology; this can be one of many experiences offered to young and adult visitors.”


Controversy: The Second Resolution 

However, a second resolution just cropped up on the agenda that has sparked some controversy. The “World Powerboat Foundation” (a 501(c)(3) created July 17) sent an in-depth plan and proposal to City Manager, Jim Scholl on July 18th with an aim to develop a lease agreement for the plant.

The letter says the organization hopes to “build the first of its kind World Powerboat Museum,” and also suggests a long-term commitment for the World Championship Powerboat Races to be held at the Truman Waterfront. The museum would showcase the championship boat for the remainder of each year following the race, a history of powerboat racing with vintage boats, and other power-boat related exhibits.

If approved, that second resolution would direct the City Manager to pursue the feasibility of utilizing the plant as a museum for the World Powerboat Foundation.

Some citizens are questioning why the idea is being pushed through as a “frontrunner” when there haven’t been any public workshops allowing HARC and the public an opportunity to give input regarding preferred use of the property and – importantly – there has been no official request for a proposal (RFP) allowing other interested parties to make offers.

Executive Director of the Key West Art and Historical Society [KWA&HS], Michael Gieda, expressed concern in a letter to City Commissioners. He writes:

“Offshore racing powerboats played no part in the relevant historic period of this Facility; such vessels are completely unrelated to and out of character with this community infrastructure Facility.”

KWA&HS requests an RFP process, and also says that the only justification provided by the City for its preselection was because the City had been approached by the World Powerboat Foundation.

He adds,

“Many other, historically appropriate uses were discussed in multiple public meetings and at the HARC workshop, it appears that none of these potential uses has been given credence by City management.”




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Amber Nolan
Amber Nolan is a restless travel writer who calls Key West home. Her work has appeared on USA Today, About.com, Cruise Critic, Frommers, and several other travel publications. Amber’s most unusual project involved hitchhiking on small airplanes to 49 states, during which time she spent two years on the road, or rather, “on the skyways.” She is currently working on a book that documents the unusual journey and provides insight into the aviation community. Before getting into travel writing, Amber worked for an activist, investigative newspaper in London, so joining forces with the Blue Paper allows her to go back to her muckraking roots. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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