It's time for the landlords to reassess what's best for them ... and for Key West.

It is reported that there are upward of 50 storefronts vacant on Duval Street and nearby blocks alone. It's counter-productive for landlords to try to maintain the exorbitant rents they've been able to charge (and get) over the last decade or more — which has contributed to the loss of most of the eclectic small businesses that made Key West the attractive destination it was, and made it exceedingly hard for other businesses that have managed to survive.

Those landlords have had a great run, but at this point, their insistence on maintaining their unsustainable rent structures will more than likely decimate what's left of that uniqueness (not that it's not already on life support). The only enterprises that will be able to afford their rents will be national chains or unscrupulous businesses like the cosmetic shops. This would not be the Key West I moved to, or the Key West that is advertised to the world.

It will be a cheap, commercial, tawdry reflection of intransigent greed and a failure to see and accommodate the greater good. Listen ... I get it ... “it's business” ... you have to maximize your investment. Yes, but you don't have to abuse to achieve that goal. If you are a landlord, I implore you to reconsider your options, to be happy with and grateful for what you have reaped so far, and then accept the idea that you hold the future of Key West in your hands — you can either adjust your financial structures for the betterment of our community, or you can remain unmoved by the hard truths facing us as a town and condemn us to the cheap tawdriness that will certainly arise from your intransigence.

So I ask you — all of you, landlords — because this is literally up to you: Which do you really want to be? How do you want us all to see you? How would you like to be remembered? Because now is the defining moment when those questions will be answered.

Robert T. Bowersox

Key West

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