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There is a post today at goodmorningkeywest.com, which you should be able to reach by clicking on this link: Florida Keys school board member Ed Davidson, retired decorated Vietnam Marine aircraft carrier fighter pilot, on photo credits, imperviousness, clean hands, bank robbers, finger-pointing, dodging simple questions, selling out, etc., etc.
Meanwhile, a letter to the editor in The Key West Citizen today – www.keysnews.com, followed by article on same subject. My interjected thoughts in italics.
Assisted care center a long time coming
Shortly after the turn of the century when I was 64, a group of friends and I began talking about realistic retirement plans within the decade.
Speed forward. By May 2004, our City Commission set aside some land for an assisted living and independent living community. Next month, my friends founded the 20-member Florida Keys Assisted Care Coalition, a nonprofit group, for a feasibility study.
After lots of negotiations — not to mention Hurricane Wilma, which left me virtually homeless — Key West citizens by a 66.7 percent majority approved the Oct. 2, 2007, referendum to have the city lease the property.
I am 70. I have been homeless in Key West, nothing virtual or virtuous about it. That referendum was passed when I ran for KW mayor the second time. I was the only candidate in the mayor and city commission races, who opposed the referendum. Keep reading.
What is now under consideration is 60 units for assisted living — 25 affordable and 35 at market rate — plus 50 units for independent living — all affordable. Yet it seems to me nothing substantial has been allowed to move forward by city staff.
Nothing substantial moved forward for a long time, because (a) nobody in Key West wanted to fork out the money to build the senior living facility, and (b) the Coalition did not have a mainland developer lined up to build it, and (c) the developer who finally was found turned out to have a big skeleton in his scam closet he had not told the Coalition or the city about; they found it out almost too late. Upon being found out, the developer boogied.
June 28 is the deadline set by the city for having a lease approved by the City Commission. It’s taken a dozen years to finally accomplish this vision. Wow.
Wow? Why didn’t the Coalition get the senior living facility built by a Key West developer, such as Ed Swift, who is a member of the Coalition and has been a loud proponent of it?
I hope concerned citizens will pack that meeting and keep their ears to the ground. This has not been the most speedy negotiation and has far exceeded standards for due diligence or transparency.
I am 76 years old now — a dozen years later from my initial planning. I now happily reside at Bayshore Manor, the county’s 16-bed assisted care facility on College Road. I’m lucky.
I wonder if Bayside Manor is at full capacity?
The public’s concern should be: Where are the boomers and other seniors going to go in these financially uncertain times? How many residents are already in need of assistance, and yet nothing is available?
All I ever heard was there was not enough seniors demand within Key West to fill the senior living facility. All I ever heard was seniors from up the Keys and on the mainland and beyond would be needed to fill the facility. That’s why I was against the referendum; I did not feel the city’s land should be given to a mainland developer to subsidize a senior living facility on high-end Truman Waterfront.
Let’s hope the city will proceed to honor its aging citizens to “age in place” and continue to be productively involved with our community.
John N. Gish Jr.
I’m all for Key West citizens being able to age in place, but I am not all for the city subsidizing a senior living facility for seniors who are not proven full-time residents of Key West. Meaning, they live in Key West. They sleep in Key West at night. I don’t believe Ed Swift, for example, fits into that category, as he lives in Key Haven, just beyond the Key West city limits.
Waterfront board OK’s assisted-living project
Support unanimous from advisory board; revamped senior housing proposal now heads to commission
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
An advisory board to the City Commission on Monday unanimously approved a revamped proposal to build a 110-unit senior housing complex on the Truman Waterfront.
The vote came 10 years after the same board approved an original plan, which was reworked a year ago after the first developer backed out, and six years after voters passed a referendum in favor of such a project on 3.3 acres of the valuable waterfront property handed over to the city from the Navy in 2002.
“This is a fantastic project,” said attorney Robert Cintron, chairman of the Truman Waterfront Advisory Board, after the 6-0 vote. “I don’t think it’s our business to question the location since the electorate did that years ago.”
Actually, years ago, the electorate, and the city commissioners and mayor, were told by Coalition members, including Peter Batty, which I heard, that there was only one place in Key West city limits to build the senior living facility, and that was on Truman Waterfront. In fact, there was a place on the city’s part of Stock Island, where the senior living center could have been built – the Easter Seals property, which backs up to the golf course and is very near the city’s beautiful tropical forest and botanical garden. Which also is on the road traveled by the areas’s people, as they go to and leave Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS) each day. Which also is near the local hospital and the helicopter evacuation pad, used to take very sick or injured to Miami hospitals. Which is on a well-serviced city transit bus route, which buses connect that area to the North Roosevelt Boulevard shopping centers and area doctors offices. Truman Waterfront is clear across Key West from all of that, through horrible traffic. Today, the city intends to build a big assisted living facility for homeless people on the Easter Seals property.
The $31 million proposal by Wendover Housing Partners and backed by a local coalition whose members include businessman Ed Swift and nurse Joan Higgs, received a warm welcome by the appointed board.
Although the plan has changed and the years ticked away to the point where the coalition has until June 28 to sign a deal with the city, its backers have kept an unwavering commitment to see it through.
Members of the nonprofit Florida Keys Assisted Care Coalition comprised most of the 20 people in attendance at Old City Hall.
“I know it’s going to happen,” said Armando “Bookie” Henriquez, the coalition’s co-chairman after the meeting. “The need is too great for it not to.”
The meeting aimed to get everyone on the same page and to approve a plan unveiled Monday that calls for 60 assisted living units, of which 35 would go for a market rate cost of $54,000 a year per resident.
Those rents would help fund the “affordable” units planned.
While Wendover Housing hammers out a lease with city staff, the board’s recommendation heads to City Commissioners, where three members have recently questioned whether Key West will get short-changed by a project relying on deep discounts in rent.
“If there was some expectation you want a fair market rent, this would never work,” said developer Jeff Sharkey, of Tallahassee. “We recognize this is a prime piece of property, however, the community felt this was the right place for something like this. There’s no other place to go. I hear from everybody, there’s just no services available here. This is a stretch to make this work.”
The voters and the city commissioners and mayor understood in 2007 that the referendum was for a senior living facility the city would subsidize by virtually giving the land a developer under a nominal 99-year lease.
Sharkey’s team has offered an up-front land payment of $500,000 which would take care of the annual rent until the 11th year of a requested 53-year lease. At that point, the city would be paid an annual rent.
Monday’s vote is essentially an endorsement of the project to the City Commission, which has final say on the project and the lease.
No major sticking points remain as far as finances, city staff said Monday, and the negotiations are smooth compared to ones with the original developer, who was at odds with the city on a number of items.
“The referendum called for a mixed-income assisted and independent living facility, but did not name a developer,” said City Attorney Shawn Smith. “I don’t think the current project varies in a significant way from the broad language utilized in the referendum.”
Sharkey, who came on board the project a year ago, did almost all of the talking at the 1.5 hour meeting at Old City Hall.
City staff said the major project has required a thorough review.
“It’s a 90-year potential lease, we get one shot at it,” Assistant. City Manager Mark Finigan said. “The last thing we want to find out five years from now is that we left a lot on the table.”
Board members Al Sullivan and Sandra McMannis suggested tacking on a requirement to deliver a “market analysis” report that supports the senior housing complex before it could win city approval. But that was eventually shrugged off by the majority.
They have not even yet done a market analysis? Bizarre. How do they know there is enough senior demand in Key West to make it work? They know there are not enough senior demand in Key West to make it work. They know this is going to be yet another “condo development”, which the developer will try to sell to anyone from anywhere.
Sullivan questioned whether the complex could attract those needed 35 market-rate residents.
“We’ve spent a lot of time making sure at the end of the day, it’s going to work,” said Sharkey.
See market analysis in italics next above. That’s how they are going to make it work.
Board member Jim Gilleran said he wouldn’t support any conditions put on the board’s recommendation.
“They’ve done their homework to get to this point,” said Gilleran, a Duval Street bar owner. “You don’t risk $20 million and not have done your homework.”
Gilleran took note of the senior housing proposal’s age.
“I was a spry 41-year-old when this concept came up,” Gilleran said. “I recently got my AARP card. But seriously, this has been a long process with a deadline here. We have now a developer who has expertise in affordable housing.”
Board member Pat Labrada agreed.
“Let’s move forward,” said Labrada. “Let Dr. Sharkey and the city put it together; let them do their work. I hate for everything to have to keep coming back to this board. We’ve already made a decision of what we want.”
I agree it’s time to bring this to a head. I just wish the city officials and the Coalition members would tell the newspapers and the public where the developer is going to look for seniors to fill a city taxpayer-subsidized senior living facility.