Aging apartment buildings at Poinciana Plaza on Duck Avenue may soon be replaced by new ones to house clients of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless and Monroe Association for Remarkable Citizens (MARC). FKOC/Contributed

A government and nonprofit partnership soon could lead to the replacement of the Poinciana Plaza public housing buildings on Duck Avenue, although one neighbor wants to be sure the public is apprised of the plans.

The U.S Navy built the boxy cement buildings in the 1950s to house some 212 sailors.

Nearly 50 years later, in 1996, the Navy gave the 33-acre property and its buildings to the city of Key West. At the time, the Navy’s Base Realignment & Closure (BRAC) process was closing several military installations worldwide, declaring the property surplus and giving it to cities, counties and qualified nonprofit providers that could demonstrate a valid plan for its future use.

In Key West, the city agreed to lease some of the buildings at Poinciana to local nonprofits that served the island’s most vulnerable residents — homeless, mentally ill, developmentally disabled and victims of domestic violence. 

The Key West Housing Authority took ownership of the remaining buildings, and has rented those out to tenants who qualify for low-income housing.

Although all of the buildings are aging beyond their usefulness, for now, it’s the city’s social services buildings that could be slated for replacement, said City Commissioner Sam Kaufman, who also chairs the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless, which leases four Poinciana buildings from the city and provides a combination of transitional and permanent housing for residents who have struggled with homelessness and other challenges, including addiction, abuse and poverty. 

“We’re only focused, for now, on the social services side of the Poinciana property,” Kaufman told the Keys Weekly on March 21.

Kaufman called the preliminary plans, which have not been submitted to or approved by any city department, an exciting partnership among the city of Key West, which owns the land, and FKOC for the homeless, the MARC House (for developmentally disabled adults), and AH Monroe, which has built several affordable and workplace housing units throughout Key West.

The plan calls for the replacement of three FKOC  buildings and one that’s leased by MARC (Monroe Association for Remarkable Citizens). 

“But the need we have is to be able to house current residents of the buildings that will be demolished while we replace them,” Kaufman said. 

So the plan, Kaufman said, is first to build two new buildings that will temporarily house residents whose buildings are being replaced.

“After those residents are in their new units, those two buildings will be used to house local first responders, police and firefighters,” Kaufman said.

He added that the very preliminary plans also include a parking garage for 120 or 150 cars that would be built inside the Poinciana complex to help relieve the parking shortage along Duck Avenue.

Kaufman said he hopes to have the plans before the city’s Development Review Committee, the first stop for any major construction or development application, in April. 

“We want FKOC’s permanent housing to be replaced and increased with additional beds,” Kaufman said, emphasizing that the new and additional units will not be for transitional housing, but for permanent homes, for full-time working residents who have “graduated” from FKOC’s programs.

Nearby, Allen Tidball, who owns the only private house that abuts the Poinciana property, told the Keys Weekly that the preliminary plans concern him. Tidball wants to alert the community and surrounding neighborhood to the March 30 public meeting at Poinciana Royale.

Tidball is concerned about the plans to replace the current two-story buildings with three-story buildings, and questions the plans for the new parking garage.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.