Key West officials want to make more and better use of the iconic Mallory Square, which for decades has hosted the nightly Sunset Celebration but not much else.

And with the November vote to significantly reduce the number of cruise ships that can visit Key West, Mallory Square will see even less usage.

At their city commission meeting on Tuesday, March 2, officials are expected to accept a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation that would help pay for an 85-foot extension to the T-Pier at Mallory Square.

The total project cost is $3.4 million, but this portion of the upgrade will cost FDOT about $522,000 and will cost the city about $174,000, according to the March 2 agenda documents.

With additional funding sources on board, the city has identified $2.6 million of the $3.4 million total cost, the documents state, adding, “Staff anticipates the remaining project cost to be programmed incrementally in fiscal year 2022 and 2023. The funds are at a 75% / 25% cost share,” meaning the state pays the bulk of the costs and the city matches it with a 25% share.

“The Port of Key West’s existing berthing structure at Mallory T-Pier is in need of an upgrade,” the documents state, but make no mention of the reduced cruise ship usage of the pier. “The Mallory T-Pier Extension/Improvements project will increase the length of the pier from its existing length of 115 feet to a length of 200 feet and install a new mooring monopile to allow safe dockage.”

The project will include other technical improvements and repairs to the bulkhead, underdeck concrete, stormwater management systems and other areas.

In a separate agenda item scheduled for March 2, the city is expected to formally accept $168,000 from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council for the installation of sunshades at Mallory Square.

“Since Mallory Square was converted in the early 1980s from a parking lot to the plaza as it is known today, it has only received minimal upgrades, limited to security updates, brick sealing, and landscaping here and there,” states the agenda document. “The project would therefore be the first dramatic public improvement made since the early 1980s.”

Mallory Square has become a hot topic in recent months, as voters approved the cruise ship reductions and officials now want to find new and better uses for the valuable waterfront area.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. She's married to a saintly — and handy — fisherman, and has been stringing words together in Key West since 1998.