North Roosevelt Boulevard, arguably the city’s main industrial thoroughfare, may be headed for a facelift.
Multiple efforts are underway to assess future development along the boulevard, including what kinds and sizes of businesses will be allowed to operate along the state-owned road. Intersection safety, more landscaping and other beautification recommendations will also be considered, according to city officials.
Currently, there is one survey out in the field being led by Key West City Commissioner Sam Kaufman, whose District 2 includes the business zone along North Roosevelt. Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover, whose District 5 includes the residences that abut North Roosevelt businesses, is working with the city’s Planning Department on a separate assessment. That assessment includes a three-phased plan to amend city codes to add larger buffers between the business and residential areas on North Roosevelt, allow roof-top porches on homes behind taller buildings, and stop large-scale business proposals like the self-storage building at the corner of North Roosevelt and Palm Avenue that was recently considered by city officials.
“Let’s get some [ordinances] so we don’t have another storage facility fiasco,” Hoover said. “That woke everyone up in my part of the district.”
The original 40,000-square foot, 600-unit proposed self-storage unit building did not receive a positive initial reception from both city commissioners and the planning board. The proposal, which has been amended, has been sent back to the city planning board for a second hearing. Whether it is eventually approved or denied, the prospect of a large-scale building along the boulevard got the attention of city officials. While there are some higher-story hotels on that strip, most of the commercial buildings along the boulevard that back up to a residential district are relatively low-rise.
Key West Planning Director Katie Halloran said her department is working on a North Roosevelt concept that will be presented to city officials, starting with a separate survey to assess how residents and business owners would like to see North Roosevelt improve in the future. The new city-wide strategic plan currently in development will likely include proposals for the boulevard, as well.
Commissioner Hoover said the Planning Department is working on the three-phase proposal. The first phase will include building code amendments governing building height, buffers between residential areas, preserving the water and sky views of residents abutting the roadway, business facades and signage, and traffic intersection safety. Phase 2 will focus primarily on beautification and potentially limiting the number of fast-food restaurants along the boulevard, said Hoover, who proposed encouraging smaller cafes and boutiques.
“Just things that say Key West and don’t say Miami,” she said, adding, “Make North Roosevelt Boulevard a real boulevard and get away from the highway feel.”
Commissioner Kaufman said he has received 317 responses to his multiquestion survey, which was initially sent to businesses along North Roosevelt, then opened up to include resident input. Eighty-one percent said the boulevard business district area needs improvement, 53% said they did not feel pedestrians were safe at night, and 76% said they believed building facades are in need of repair.
“It [survey] tells me that 81% of respondents believe overall that North Roosevelt Boulevard needs improvement. That’s a big number for me,” Kaufman said.
He added he is concerned about intersection safety, particularly along Hilton Haven Road, where the sidewalk narrows in front of the Key West Yacht Club, and Gulf View Drive, which accesses the Roosevelt Sands affording housing complex.
“Hundreds of people live there. When you drive out of there, it’s a difficult line of sight,” he said.
Kaufman said his survey is aimed at gauging interest in forming a citizens committee that would make recommendations to the city commission on North Roosevelt development. In addition to exploring the feasibility of having a more frequent bus route along the boulevard, which could encourage more use of mass transit, and improving bicycle safety on the road, Kaufman wants to consider creating a business improvement district along the boulevard. That would allow community members to work with government officials to drive any future improvements.
But he acknowledged the city may be limited in what can be done, given North Roosevelt is a state-owned roadway.
“That [North Roosevelt Boulevard] is a major path between us and Stock Island,” Kaufman pointed out, adding, “Let’s identify improvements we can realistically accomplish.”