Village makes offer on Walgreens property
There is a diverse range of opinions on the subject of the July 21 special call, one-topic council meeting. The question is should the village acquire the Walgreens-owned property where the upscale Island Silver and Spice used to stand at Mile Marker 82 in the median. Before Island Silver and Spice, it was Irene and George’s, as our mayor, Buddy Pinder noted at a prior council meeting. With a CVS Pharmacy nearby, Walgreens intended to build a competing store, but it never did — and the vacant department store in the center of Islamorada became a home for vagrants.
The council agreed with a 5-0 vote, to authorize the village manager to negotiate with Walgreens. They discussed the logic behind the purchase, concentrating on the opportunity for the community to control the future of this prime location.
Earlier in the year at a council meeting, Pinder had hoped Walgreen’s would consider donating the property to the village and Village Attorney Roget Bryan said staff could reach out to the owners perhaps about the possibility of a private/public partnership. Councilman David Webb said Walgreen’s could receive a federal tax credit if it chose the donation option.
More recently, here’s what some residents suggested:
“I would be in favor of buying it, reducing the commercial square footage from 39,000 to 10,000, and deed restricting it in some reasonable and helpful way then selling it. Perhaps keep a small portion. Buying it helps controlling its development.”
“What a fantastic opportunity to enhance our Village and create a true sense of community. Let’s buy this property and create a walkable downtown Islamorada. This is just an idea… Start at the historic district and build a walkway from there past the Hurricane Monument, along the Old Highway, past the historic Methodist Church (just placed on the National Registry of Historic Places) with those tall magnificent stained glass windows designed and made by church members. Wind back to the Overseas Highway through the lush entrance to Cheeca and follow the new walkway past the Shrimp Shack and retail shops to the new ‘Islamorada Station,’ once home to Irene and George’s and more recently Island Silver and Spice. The Station will be a resting point, with the Matecumbe Historical Trust Caboose as the centerpiece, a tiny history museum to tell the fascinating story of the people, places and events that have made Islamorada the incredible place we all love. The walking trail could continue north to Southwind Park.”
“ I don’t like it. I would rather control whatever commercial uses are proposed.”
“Buying this property for parking amounts to the taxpayer/residents functionally subsidizing the over-development of Islamorada while their quality of life and community character decline. At the very least, a special taxpaying district should be established requiring local businesses to pay for their own parking instead of billing the taxpayers for it. ”
“I think it’s rather like Freebee and its usefulness for businesses and tourists. The benefits to businesses, especially businesses on Upper Matecumbe Key, are obvious with the parking availability and the potential for affordable/workforce housing. For residents, Joe and Jo Taxpayer, perhaps retirees, what is the benefit of a lot of their tax dollars going to this project? This investment usurps other needs – not wants – like improvements to our Old Highway problems on three of Islamorada’s four islands, wastewater upgrades, affordable housing on village-owned lots at Gardenia and Woods Avenue, and more recreation options to conservation or other properties. What needed improvements stop as Islamorada pours $2 million-plus into this one site on one island for parking?”
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