The bad news is there are names to be added every year to the Key West AIDS Memorial. The good news is there soon will be additional space to memorialize local residents who have lost the battle.
Crews from D.L. Porter construction company are expanding the granite memorial that stands solemnly at the foot of the White Street Pier on Higgs Beach.
The estimated $160,000 expansion has been three years in the making, and is being funded with two grants from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, awarded in two different grant cycles, said Jon Allen, president of the Friends of the Key West AIDS Memorial. The nonprofit group created the memorial in 1997 and, along with the city of Key West, ensures its maintenance.
The Friends also administer the annual addition of new names, which are read aloud every Dec. 1 on World AIDS Day during a candlelit march down White Street to the memorial.
The expanded section will be made of the same black granite as the original design, but instead of resting flat on the ground, it will include tilted granite panels bearing the additional names.
"We realized several years ago that we were running out of space, so we got a hold of Michael Ingram, who was the architect of the original design, and asked him to give us some options on how we could continue to add names," Allen said on Wednesday. "Thankfully the number is lower every year, but the addition of names is ongoing."
Ingram, along with fellow architect Anthony Sarno, designed a "free standing annex to the memorial," said Allen, adding that the design received approval from the Friends of Higgs Beach, the Art in Public Places board and county officials, as the beach is county-owned.
"The new design will be up out of the ground on tilted panels so it will be more visible, and I think it will really define that space a little better," Allen said.
Phase 2 of the memorial will accommodate about 1,200 names, said Ingram, hoping Key West never fills it. There are currently more than 1,100 names inscribed into the original granite.
His design also features new benches that will face the nearby Africans Memorial, as well as the sunset from Higgs Beach.
"The seating will be individual seats that are designed to discourage long-term occupancy," Ingram said.
In addition to the TDC funding, the Marion Stevens Fund has pledged an additional $20,000 for ongoing maintenance of the memorial, Ingram said, commending the city of Key West for its work maintaining the area as well.
The contract with D.L. Porter requires work to be finished within six months, and Ingram estimated it will be finished well within that time frame, although a definite completion date has not been set.
The Friends of the AIDS Memorial always welcome volunteers and donations to help preserve the memorial. For more information about the memorial, visit www.keywestaids.org. To volunteer or donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.