Construction is well underway on Trumbo Road in Key West, where 24 apartments are being built for use by local law enforcement workers. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

It’s taken more than two years, thousands of documents and hundreds of hours, but the construction of 24 apartments for local law enforcement workers is underway on Trumbo Road.

The once-vacant lot in Key West, between the luxury Steam Plant condominiums and the school district’s headquarters, will feature new apartments for employees of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Key West Police Department and perhaps other city of Key West employees.

“We had initially talked about doing 38 units at Trumbo Road, but there were concerns. So my building partner also bought a 14-unit compound on Stock Island that has been occupied by workers for the past 18 months,” Sheriff Rick Ramsay told the city’s Historic Architectural Review Commission back in December 2022, when the board unanimously approved the project. 

That “building partner” is a family-owned company called SPGL that also owns the majority of units at the neighboring Steam Plant condominiums, luxury units with rooftop pools, elevators and waterfront views.

Funding for the project comes from Steam Plant owners Meg and Jed Molleston, who previously sold large interests in the oil and natural gas industries in Texas and Louisiana. 

Upon learning of the workforce housing planned for the neighboring lot, the Mollestons offered to design, build and pay for the housing that they would be comfortable having in their backyard, managing its height, appearance and configuration.

It was the best possible outcome of the NIMBY response — for “not in my backyard.”

Crews broke ground on the project in December 2022.

“My wife and I were alarmed when we learned that this property had been approved for 40 units of workforce housing,” Jed Molleston told a crowd of about 50 at the ground-breaking ceremony last year on Trumbo Road. “What do you think I said? ‘Not in my backyard.’ Meg and I weren’t going to have a Soviet-style apartment block jammed onto one acre.”

Upon hearing of Jed Molleston’s opposition, Key West City Commissioner Sam Kaufman suggested he speak with the sheriff to see if something could be worked out.

“Commissioner Kaufman told me, ‘The sheriff’s a reasonable guy.’ And he is,” Molleston said.

The family worked out a plan to reduce the neighboring workforce development from 40 to 24 apartments, and in the meantime bought a 14-unit rental complex on Stock Island to make up the difference. 

Those units on Stock Island and the ones coming to Trumbo Road will be affordably rented to sheriff’s office employees, Key West Police Department employees, EMTs and other public safety workers.

“Meg and I find tremendous value in supporting our local law enforcement,” Molleston said. “When we work together, consider all points of view and work toward compromise, we really can have nice things.”

Ramsay acknowledged, “Obviously, if Jed and his family had their preference, there’d never be anything built on this property, but this is proof of what can happen with public-private partnerships,” adding that at least now “no one will dare rob the Steam Plant Condominiums when there’s 15 or so patrol cars parked right next door.”

A subsequent offer was made by the Mollestons to build similar housing for their other neighbor — the school district.But the Mollestons notified the school district last month that they were no longer in a position to complete that project. The school district is now seeking other potential developers to build workforce housing on that site and is considering selling a portion of its property to help offset the costs of construction. (See Superintendent Theresa Axford’s full explanation on this page.)

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.