Village discusses creation of business district

With shops, galleries and businesses, activity around Morada Way is flowing. There’s a need, however, for infrastructure improvements, according to village officials.

As for the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District, a nonprofit, they’re looking for a way to bring more spotlight to the area that many deem to be the downtown of Islamorada.

During a Jan. 10 council meeting, lengthy discussion ensued over a way to go about enhancements in the form of parking, walkways and lighting. While the village has plans on the shelf pertaining to parking and walkways, there’s a need for funding. The recommendation of business district then came about.

Village Attorney Roget Bryan noted that the village could have its own entity and process to supplement activity of the arts district. Bryan said the idea isn’t to step on the toes of the district or businesses. More, it’s a practical way for the village to be a public partner.

“From a staff perspective, it’s not about supplanting or stepping on the district’s toes,” Bryan said. “The idea is how can the village do things within its ability and power that will complement what the business district and council do.”

Council members and the public took time to chime in on the idea. Councilwoman Cheryl Meads noted that the storm took the village’s extra funds, but there are monies available through DAC and state agencies to build infrastructure in the area. Through a business district, Meads said they’d be able to secure funding for those needs.

“What we’re talking about is lights and paths on village property,” she said. “It’s a way to find money that’s not taxpayer money to create infrastructure downtown.”

Councilman Jim Mooney said the village has spent money on studies related to parking. Mooney told village staff to focus on the area from the Hurricane Monument to the Green Turtle.

“We have probably spent $200,00 in parking studies and walking studies,” he said. “We don’t need to restudy this. If you just focus on monument to the Turtle, forget everything else and accomplish the goal right there.”

Craig McBay is chairman of the nonprofit and owner of Florida Keys Brewing Company. With help from the village, McBay said the district could focus more on programming than infrastructure. And while lights and parking are essential, McBay noted that a map is also needed to show businesses’ locations.

“We have so much in this tight little area,” he said. “People could come and park and they can view a map. The more we kind of emphasize the special area we have the more they’ll come back to our area.”

Andrea Johannson, interim director for the nonprofit, said the idea of the business district was to substantiate an identity for the area already known as the downtown and arts and cultural district. Outlining the area could drive more people there, she noted.

“When you go into Google Maps and you type in Islamorada and downtown, something would actually come up and outline it, (so) it might drive more people to it,” she said. “I think that would help the area and continue what it’s already doing.”

Council didn’t take action on the matter. Discussions ended with Planning Director Ty Harris telling council members that plans for walkways and lights would be made to bring back for discussion.

“(We) already have a planning study on parking,” he said. “We can do some pretty good stuff on what to do for walkways and lights that go waist high and shines down.”

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy, a Western New York native, is a gym rat who can’t get his nutrition in line, a golfer who can’t find the green and a neat freak who can’t let anything be out of order. Xbox and movies are his downtime loves.

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