In case you missed it over the holidays, the latest proposals for re-doing Key West’s Mallory Square are posted online. And, unlike what could have been “looks like South Beach” or some generic New England downtown street mall except with a palm tree, these two approaches are pure Key West.
I love it when a plan comes together.
In October, Sasaki, the city’s consulting firm, posted the first community-wide survey and asked for public input to shape the design. They would use that information to prepare two approaches to the re-doing of Mallory Square. Sasaki would next combine the best options from each into a final master plan for Mallory Square.
Shortly before Christmas, the two drawings dropped along with another online feedback survey. You’ve got a short window to complete the survey, so I’d suggest doing it now if you want your voice heard.
(Aside: Ignore the titles of the two drawings: Limestone Jungle and Cultural Canvas. Neither feels accurate and trying to suss out their hidden meanings is fruitless. I guess they had to call them something.)
Anyway, back to my point: Although the final plan will be a combination of these two concepts, I’d be happy if we flipped a coin and just picked one. Yeah. They really are that good. Imagine: Steps down to the water with room to play.
Mallory Square | We asked — and we got it!
Here’s what I hoped would happen when I completed the first community survey last fall — and what you’ll find in the two proposed plans:
- I don’t want to see significant incursions on today’s open space, but a passive park is boring and won’t get me back to the square very often. In the plan: Paths slide through tree canopies with plenty of places to sit, relax, play games and get close and personal with the water. There’s also a water feature for cooling and playing.
- I certainly don’t want a bunch more souvenir shops or national chains. I’m good with local artists and locally-owned businesses. In the plan: Flexible areas for artists, musicians and the sunset celebration. No retail.
- Not sure how I feel about a ring of food trucks, though food and snacks other than Pepe’s would be a plus to encourage return visits to just sit and enjoy the open water. In the plan: room for a food court to the corners, but no sprawling. Nice compromise.
- I’m OK with getting rid of all the parking and making the entire district accessible and pedestrian friendly. In the plan: parking mostly gone. Yay! A few spots left and well landscaped to hide.
- Fishing from the pier sounds heavenly — until I remember someone’s going to set up shop to rent poles and bait. Don’t want vendors for chairs either. Bring your own or not at all. In the plan: not in the plan.
- Fixing all the streets around and into the Mallory Square district would be welcome. Getting rid of all motorized and electric vehicles would be perfect. In the plan: Definitely integrates the whole area; lots of new tree canopy and walking areas. One plan moves the sculpture garden to the square and gets rid of that black fence. Yay.
- I’m good with permanent shade structures as long as we add more green growing stuff. I don’t think a bunch of shade trees is the answer. In the plan: Shade structures are there, but the Limestone Jungle’s looks more natural. Cultural Canvas has great curved pathways and its seating has gentle lines. There’s a lot of Brutalist blocks and hard line spaces in the Jungle. There’s even a mangrove restoration project.
- I do not want the square to mimic Chicago’s Navy Pier or the harbor area in Baltimore. Please no Ferris wheels and such. In the plan: Nothing of the sort.
- Keep the actual Sunset Celebration old-fashioned funky like it’s always been. Local performers, artist and vendors, please. In the plan: Yes, it’s in the plan.
And, thanks to the Old Island Restoration Fund, Dr. Cory Malcolm and a 1961 letter found in the archives, there need be no battle over renaming Mallory Square. We know definitively now that Mallory Square was named after the Clyde-Mallory Steamship Line out of Mystic, Connecticut — and not after the infamous Confederate collaborator Stephen Mallory. Good news, indeed.