Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Community garden proposed for stalled development site
By MANDY BOLEN Citizen Staff
Construction of the Harbor House luxury condominium development has been stalled for some time. One model town house stands alone on the site of the former Jabour's Trailer Court, now a city block of cleared waterfront property. A sales trailer for the 32 planned town houses recently was removed from the area and all 32 units still are listed for sale, according to the Web site for KeysCaribbean, which is developing the property for a business partnership called Caroline Street Partners.
"We're just working through the times, like everyone else," said Realtor Ralph Sanchez, who heads the sales team for Harbor House.
The company, founded by native Key Westers, bought the old RV park in 2004 for about $20 million, and then spent another $3 million on the adjacent Veterans of Foreign War clubhouse on Elizabeth Street.
The neighbors' view has been an 8-foot-tall construction wall for more than a year, and one Caroline Street business owner has an innovative, if not idealistic, vision for the barren area.
Theo Glorie, who owns the Coffee Plantation, wants to create a temporary neighborhood beautification project there in the form of a community garden. He envisions raised wooden planters that could be removed within 30 or 60 days when construction resumes or when the property is sold.
Glorie does not want to imitate the existing community garden behind May Sands School, where members pay an annual fee to rent garden plots.
"It includes themed garden beds, as well as a large common area," he said, likening part of the space to one of the Keys Energy Services pocket parks around town. A green oasis in the middle of an urban area could feature benches, a fountain and a variety of plants, he said.
Glorie, who spearheaded efforts to preserve the Schooner Western Union and organized a volunteer cleanup of Wisteria Island, plans to approach the developers with the idea, and already has mentioned it to City Commissioner Bill Verge, whose district includes the property.
"The goal of the garden is to make creative use of blighted land" in the area bounded by Caroline, William and Elizabeth streets, Glorie said. "Otherwise, with this economy, we're going to be looking at construction walls for another five years or so."
Sanchez had not heard of the idea until Wednesday, when The Citizen called him for comment, but said he happily would put Glorie in touch with KeysCaribbean executives to ensure he speaks with the right people.
"Of course, I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm sure we'd be open to talking to them about anything that would help the community," Sanchez said.
Verge has concerns about liability and insurance, and said he wants to see the city of Key West acquire the property as a site for work-force housing.
As of now, the property is not listed for sale, and still is owned by Caroline Street Partners, according to Monroe County property records.
Craig Hunt, CEO of KeysCaribbean, could not be reached for comment about the future of Harbor House and the possibility of what Glorie calls "an urban oasis."
For more information, or to become involved in the garden project proposal, call Glorie at 305-304-9438 or e-mail him at email@example.com.