Once upon a time there was Key West.
The city was a gay Mecca, Duval Street was home to small businesses, local artist’s galleries, bars and charming family restaurants. Gay guest houses dotted the landscape.
Then cruise ships were allowed to dock, Corporate America and developers came in, destroying the uniqueness of the place. Housing was no longer affordable and people, especially the gay community began to leave. The same thing happened to South Beach.
Now it is Wilton Manors’ turn.
A 123 room, eight story hotel is in the works and construction could start soon on the site of the old funeral home on Dixie Hwy near the Five points, a process that could go back and forth for months but it is getting a head of steam.
And then what?
For years residents and visitors have clamored for a parking garage near the Drive. It has been a frustrating pie in the sky. How can businesses on the Drive survive, thrive and fill the coffers with the city if people cannot come to the Island City because finding a parking space is such a hassle?
Why are the elected politicians so stubborn on this subject?
Take a look at Delray Beach. The beauty of the “Village by the Sea” is that you can walk about downtown easily after parking your car in one of the many public garages that pepper the city.
Wilton Manors’ City Commissioners are delighted with the idea of having an eight-story hotel dwarf the rest of the city. Traffic around the Five Points and on The Drive is already a nightmare; the new hotel will only exacerbate the status quo.
Guest houses will close, small businesses will shut down, most residents will move out, and Corporate AmeriKa will take over. Nowadays many of the people who work in Wilton Manors live in the city, and can either walk to their place of employment or hop on a scooter. Once the hotel is in place and gentrification picks up steam they will no longer be able to afford the housing. The hotel staff will have to commute bringing more traffic in and out of the city. Not every place in this country needs or wants gentrification.
The charm of the Island City will be lost forever leaving behind a straight Disneyfied un-affordable version of itself.
I wonder what else is in the minds of the City Commissioners. Do they expect celebrities to come and stay? Will the Kardashians make an appearance? Perhaps Hagen Park could be turned into a heliport or a landing strip for private jets?