Is Key West ready for a pedestrian-only zone on Duval Street? We’ll find out Friday

Key West’s most famous street isn’t getting a makeover.

But three blocks will transform into a pedestrian-only zone from 5 p.m. to midnight every weekend through April 27.

City leaders hope the the big change, which starts on Friday, will please visitors and also attract locals who have sworn off Duval Street because of maddening traffic that at times pits cars, bikes, scooters, pedicabs, skateboarders and pedestrians against each other.

“No vehicles, only pedestrians,” City Manager Jim Scholl said Thursday.

The car-free zone was created to “stimulate economic activity, and provide lessons learned for potential expansion of restricted vehicle events,” according to a memo from the city’s engineering. The plan emulates other pedestrian malls such as Lincoln Road in South Beach; St. Augustine’s George Street; Boulder, Colorado’s Pearl Street; San Diego’s Seaport Village; and parts of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

The pedestrian-only zone will cover the 500, 600 and 700 blocks of Duval — from Fleming to Petronia streets — only for those 23 nights, or 11 weekends.

Since this is Presidents’ Day weekend, the pedestrian mall will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Future vehicle-free weekends will be Friday and Saturday only.

“This is not a tourist attraction,” Mayor Teri Johnston said at the Feb. 5 City Commission meeting when the decision was made in a 6-1 vote. “This is for us, the people who live here every single day.”

The idea, which a band of local businesses call the “Mall on Duval” has been tossed around City Hall for years but never got past design work.

“If you are visiting Key West, the city invites you with open arms to join our grand opening,” said the Central Duval District, a group of local business owners promoting the project. “For those that are local, we encourage you to rediscover Duval Street like you’ve never seen it before”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 6 p.m. at the corner of Duval and Southard streets with Johnston and city commissioners expected to attend.

The pedestrian-only mall program will cost the city up to $5,600 per night to pay for extra policing and community services.