Streets for People / Project Seeks To Make Duval Street Resilient in Face of Sea Level Rise

Imagine maybe a hundred people waiting in line to get into a City meeting in Key West. I know, hard to picture right? But that’s what happened on Wednesday evening out in front of the San Carlos Institute at 516 Duval as downtown business owners, retail workers and residents from all over Key West patiently lined up and signed in before they opened the doors to the Duval Street Revitalization & Resiliency project Open House at 5:00 pm. Officials estimated that a couple hundred people in all attended the two-hour event. The big crowd is good news and a reflection of the pent up excitement for a project that has been five years in the making and is near and dear to the hearts of those who love our island’s historic main street.

Attendees Got a Glimpse Of and Discussed the Future

Participants snaked their way through an exhibit that started in the lobby and made its way through the auditorium, examining story boards depicting elevations along the corridor, impacts on flooding of the street infrastructure, and strategies for saving historic buildings. Locals got to talk one on one with about a dozen City staffers and Stantec engineering and planning consultants and participated in an exercise indicating which samples they liked and disliked on street furniture (benches, bike racks, planters, water fountains – even doggie water fountains), art, landscaping, lighting, and signage. Everyone I talked to was excited that future vulnerabilities were finally being addressed.

Making Duval Street Resilient In the Face of Sea Level Rise, Climate Change and Weather Events

And that’s the impetus of the Duval Street project. The City and County are well into planning for what we need to do to help our low level island chain combat sea level rise and become resilient in the face of climate change and weather events (see our stories here and here).  LiDAR data is finished in the County and almost finished at the City. Based on the data, engineering analysis and plans are already underway to find resiliency solutions on how to deal with the increasing water in our city and throughout the Keys. As Duval Street is our main street and a critically important economic and social part of our community, it especially needs to be protected for decades to come.

Leveraging Resiliency Construction Projects for Revitalizing Duval

So as money is spent hardening Duval Street and the infrastructure below and around it (think water, sewer, stormwater, utilities, and roadbeds), it is the perfect time to address any enhancements to the street above (think benches, trees, sidewalks, water fountains, art, signage, safety for pedestrians) as these are pennies on the dollar when doing the big work. Leveraging available Federal and State grant dollars aimed at making Duval Street more resilient over the next decade enables the City to fold in revitalizing Duval Street at a minimal cost and THAT’S GOOD NEWS!

Mayor Teri Johnston Keeps Duval Street Project Moving Forward

We’ll end this story with a thank you to Mayor Teri Johnston. Mayor Johnston ran on a platform of revitalizing and making Duval Street resilient in 2018. She initiated a Mall on Duval pilot project in 2019 and that begat the first attempt at a plan later that year. A community survey in early 2021 backed the Mayor up by saying that our #2 issue, after affordable housing was combating sea level rise and that of all the potential projects needed, the Revitalization of Duval Street was #1. Mayor Johnston then ensured the project would get done as it was enshrined in the Key West Forward Strategic Plan. After a couple of fits and starts, Stantec was hired, and the process has started.

None of it would have happened without the Mayor’s pushing it forward. And we’re lucky to have such a capable Planning Director in Katie Halloran in overseeing the project. And our beloved little historic downtown will be all the better for us participating in and making the Duval Street Revitalization & Resiliency Project a success.

# # #

More Information and Duval Street Revitalization Project History

For more information on the current planning effort visit If you want to dive into the background and history of this project, here’s 10 stories we’ve done on it over the last five years:

1.        Duval Street Revitalization Moves Forward, June 10, 2020  

2.         Duval Street Revitalization Help Sought Via RFQ, December 10, 2020

3.        Duval Street Revitalization Project Brings Hope to Downtown, December 28, 2020

4.        The Wee Donkey, Whataboutism, Bathwater and Duval Street’s Future, February 19, 2021 

5.        Eight Things We Can Do to Pedestrianize Duval and Still Allow Cars, March 6, 2021 

6.         Do Key West Commercial Areas Need Business Improvement Districts (BIDS)? – Part 2: What BIDS in Key West Might Look Like, April 23, 2021

7.        With the Duval Street Revitalization Plan Way Behind Schedule, Here’s 3 Quick Wins for Pedestrianizing Duval Street Now, July 16, 2021  

8.            Mallory Sq., Diesel Plant, Duval Street and Bahama Village Housing Projects Create Synergy to Bolster Downtown, January 14, 2022

9.     Duval Street Revitalization Back on Track, October 1, 2021

10.    Progress on Five Historic District Projects Means More Life, Locals, Prosperity, and Resiliency for Our Downtown , October 21, 2022

Chris Hamilton is founder of the local advocacy group Friends of Car-Free Key West & Duval Street/Historic Downtown. Subscribe to the blog. Follow on Facebook and Twitter. Support ($) our local journalism here. A native of the District of Columbia, where for a couple decades+ he led nationally renowned efforts promoting transit, bike, walk and smart growth for Arlington County, VA’s DOT. Chris has lived in Key West since 2015. He lives car-free downtown and works and volunteers for a few non-profits. You can find three years’ worth of KONK Life Streets for People column articles here and here. 


[livemarket market_name="KONK Life LiveMarket" limit=3 category=“” show_signup=0 show_more=0]