Mallory Square is packed for two hours during the nightly Sunset Celebration, but largely unused the rest of the day and night. Keys Weekly file photo

When’s the last time you were at Mallory Square — for something other than the Sunset Celebration when company was in town?

Key West’s world famous Sunset Celebration packs Mallory Square with tourists every evening — but only for two hours. Vendors sell handmade jewelry, art, sculptures, food and psychic readings. Jugglers, tightrope walkers, acrobats and others work to impress the crowds, then pass the hat before the sun slips beneath the horizon and tie dyes the island sky.

But the city’s pedestrian plaza that overlooks Key West Harbor at the foot of Duval is used for little else. The afternoon sun is relentless and largely inescapable at Mallory Square. Nearby restaurants and souvenir shops cater to cruise ship visitors and sunset celebrants. 

That’s about it for the public plaza in a priceless location, but perhaps not for long.

City officials selected the architectural design firm of Sasaki to come up with a plan to improve and revitalize Mallory Square. 

The Boston-based Sasaki assembled an eight-month process to gather residents’ and visitors’ input, design multiple improvement options and then refine them.

Mallory Square is typically vacant during the day. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

“With the knowledge and community feedback gathered in phase 1, the planning team will develop multiple concepts for the future of Mallory Square that illustrate major trade-offs and decisions to be made,” states the company’s Mallory Square Visioning Hub at mallorysquare.engage.sasaki.com/.

“Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square should be a major component of a larger revitalization project,” the Sasaki website states. “During the first round of engagement, the public overwhelmingly said that better connectivity is needed between the historic square and the rest of the island. Visitors have difficulty finding the square, given inadequate signage and lack of clean paths to other major destinations such as Zero Duval and Truman Waterfront Park.”

Multiple design concepts are expected to be released for public input in December 2022. Sasaki then will create a master plan in early 2023.The process will include multiple public surveys and opportunities for input. The current survey is available at mallorysquare.engage.sasaki.com/.

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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.