If Duval Street is at the heart of Key West’s tourism economy, North Roosevelt Boulevard is the artery that carries the island’s lifeblood to it.

At least one city commissioner wants to start designing a plan to improve the boulevard upon which residents, visitors and businesses depend.

“North Roosevelt Boulevard is the primary gateway for all who enter the island and I don’t think we’ve given it the attention it deserves,” Commissioner Mary Lou Hoover said during the March 2 city commission meeting, floating a concept that would start with a survey of residents and business owners about their vision for the boulevard. “I do think this part of our island deserves some attention, and I think the time is now to start making progress.”

Hoover outlined a possible three-phase plan that would start with a survey and continue with what she called “low-hanging fruit,” or short-term, low-cost improvements, before any larger projects are started, approved or budgeted.

“These initial upgrades could possibly include shade trees on the business side of the boulevard; updated signage so it looks less like a highway,” Hoover said. “I’d also like to encourage our planning staff to reach out to the owners of the three shopping plazas to discuss possible redevelopment. We should bring these folks into the discussions early.”

Commissioner Sam Kaufman, who lives about two blocks from the boulevard, agreed that “it’s an underutilized asset and it does need improvement.”

But he cautioned against “lofty aspirations,” saying, “It’s a state-owned road; some of the sidewalks are privately owned and our planning department is woefully understaffed,” Kaufman said. “I just want to be realistic about what can actually get done.”

Kaufman then suggested the formation of a Business Improvement District “to take some of this off the city’s plate and get the businesses involved. We also have plenty of residents interested in bike and pedestrian safety. Let’s focus on bringing in the talents of our residents and business owners.”

Mayor Teri Johnston said she supports a survey of residents and businesses, and added that a Business Improvement District is an interesting idea, compared to a consultant that’s hired by the city. Johnston said she, like Hoover, believes some “low-hanging fruit” improvements are possible. “I’d like to see all those palm trees along the boulevard lit up at Christmas, for example,” the mayor said.

Hoover plans to work with the city’s planning staff to create and circulate the survey to gauge residents’ priorities.

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