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Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Funding requested, plans out for Rowell's

KEY LARGO -- Whether or not the county gets $65,000 to help redevelop a $5 million bayfront property as a park may be in the hands of the county attorney's office, according to tourism officials.

The county submitted a request for funding for Rowell's Marina prior to the Jan. 14 deadline to apply for the annual allotment of tourism dollars, according to Monroe County Tourism Development Council Director Harold Wheeler.

But one thing that could be a problem is the county was asking for money to develop a property it did not yet own.

"I think we have sufficient ownership interests to be eligible," County Administrator Roman Gastesi told the Free Press.

The Monroe County Commission voted last November to purchase Rowell's Marina, an 8-acre property at mile marker 104, bayside. Attorneys for the property's owner and the county have not yet inked a purchase, which is expected to take place before February. Wheeler said he accepted the county's application and will seek a legal opinion before moving forward.

"It seems that money will go toward renovations and not acquisition," Wheeler said.

In previous meetings about the redeveloping the property, tentatively named Rowell's Waterfront Park, Gastesi said he would seek $381,000 in tourism dollars. He has since reduced that request to $65,000 to free up funds for other events, such as film, beer and seafood festivals. The TDC's District Advisory Committee 5 determines where available tourism funding should go in Key Largo.

The county's application for the tourism money includes a plan to spend $2 million on revamping the property. Included in the plan is a beach park with walkways and a possible rest area for travelers on the Overseas Highway. There are no permanent plans for a restaurant, but areas for food trucks and vendors have been set aside.

The county has separated the development of the park into seven phases. The first is a $65,000 design. The second would be construction of a beach and paved parking, which would cost an estimated $600,000. Installation of a playground, gazebos, trash cans and benches would cost $100,000 during the third phase. The fourth and fifth phases would cost about $390,000 and include a walking area around the beach and a parking lot and restroom near the highway. The last two phases, which would cost $1,261,000, would stabilize the shoreline and install a waterfront boardwalk. It would also expand parking along the waterfront and expand the rest area.

"We've laid out a pretty rough plan," Gastesi said.

The application says money may be solicited from the Florida Department of Transportation. According to a timeline in the application, the first bid package for construction would take place in January 2015. The timeframe for completion is two to five years.

jgore@keysnews.com

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