W192 design themes starting to emerge for Old Town, Margaritaville districts

Even Margaritaville's consultant wants to avoid any kind of "beach bar" theming on the W192 corridor in front of the new $750 million resort.

A team from GAI Consultants met Wednesday with stakeholders from three subdistricts on the tourism corridor to get feedback and direction as they begin to design new streetscapes, color schemes, landscaping and signage to compliment the unique character of each destination.

Planner Kristin Caborn recommended phasing out the corridor's decorative mile markers and purple streetlights. "No one really uses the mile markers any more because they all have their phones," she said.

The W192 Development Authority selected the Margaritaville subdistrict as the first beneficiary of the agency's new strategy to focus spending on smaller segments of the 17-mile corridor. The resort, which includes a Margaritaville-branded hotel plus 1,000 Key West-style vacation cottages, a water park and an entertainment district, is projected to open in 2018.

The board agreed to spend 75 percent of its $5 million annual budget in the top-ranked zone, and reserve the other 25 percent for grants and projects throughout the district. The idea is to completely revitalize that area before moving on to the next one.

GAI landscape architect Ryan Seacrist said they initially put together a storyboard with the idea of a beachy, Key West theme. It did not go over well.

The subdistrict extends along U.S. 192 from the S.R. 429 interchange to Formosa Gardens Boulevard. Mary Ellen Kerber, a W192 board member and manager for Formosa Gardens and Island Grove Winery, said other business owners on that stretch don't want to be swept up in the Margaritaville branding. 

"I have a problem with the whole concept," she said. "I never envisioned the whole area being themed for Key West."

So urban planner Claudia Kay suggested they look for other methods to unify the district, such as more tropical landscaping and a turquoise color scheme -- both of which would complement 50-foot high entertainment signs at the resort entrances.

"In Margaritaville, the shopping center is more contemporary," Kay said. "It's not a cottage style like you have with the vacation homes. So we could go with something more contemporary."

Kent Bjorklund, a W192 board member who also works as a consultant for the resort developer, suggested the board commission a piece of public art from a well-known artist, such as Romero Britto, for the district.

"I think his aesthetic would work really well in this district," Kay said. "He's lives in Miami, and he's Brazilian."

The consultants also met with stakeholders on the second-ranked subdistrict, which extends from S.R. 417 to Poinciana Boulevard. Again, they presented a storyboard using themes almost exclusive to one development, Old Town. But the district also includes Magic Place, a $4 billion destination resort designed by Pininfarina that breaks ground this month.

"What we see now is this Old Town development, so we want to leverage the early 20th century Americana theming," Seacrist said. "When Magic Place comes on, it will be more futuristic. It could be a transition from Old Town to 'New Town.'"

Another idea that earned high marks was wrapping palm trees along the corridor with string lights, and using other types of LED lighting as art.

"One of my first ideas is we need to do something with light, one because it’s not expensive," Kay said. "The other reason is most visitors spend all day at Disney, they come back here at night."

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