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Finding the Soul of the City

Beautiful Winter Park.

Beautiful Winter Park.

Winter Park is a gorgeous small town.

Nestled next to bustling Orlando, Winter Park is an upscale city of 29,000 residents with a beautiful downtown, historic neighborhoods and a new apartment complex and Trader Joe’s that has inflamed a passionate debate about the city’s identity, growth, character and future.

The debate has been raging for a while but has ebbed and flowed depending on the political winds. But the construction of rental apartments and the opening of the wildly popular Trader Joe’s have created a debate in the community over character and the dreaded “D” word, density.

Sound familiar?

On one side of the debate are those who are OK with change, support transit –there’s a popular SunRail stop downtown– and don’t mind seeing development along the “edges” that might offer some residential  opportunities for people who might not otherwise be able to afford to live in the city.

On the other side are those who are concerned with density and multi-family housing, some of whom express concern over the train (which means more people visiting) and traffic, much of it generated because lots of people  have to drive through Winter Park to access a booming downtown Orlando–In other words not by development in Winter Park per se.

It’s a familiar debate and I got a dose of it last week when I went to Winter Park on behalf of ULI (Urban Land Institute) to work with the community, mayor, city commission and staff on a visioning effort.

Both sides of the debate have merit, but you wonder if there’s a way to bridge the divide or we are doomed to be caught in an endless loop of fear, division, accusations etc. etc.?

We’ve heard the tired arguments emanating from both sides of the growth divide. For instance:

“Density is bad. “

“All developers are greedy.”

“Elected officials are in the pockets of the big money developers. “

On the other side of the divide are those who argue that all opposition to development comes from NIMBY’s or CAVE’s (Citizens Against Virtually Everything).

It’s as old and as tiresome as the partisan gridlock that has ruined Congress.

We need to do better than this. And I believe we can, but it’s going to take a lot of work and education.

But the effort seems worth it, because the issue isn’t going away.

First, change is inevitable unless of course you live in colonial Williamsburg. Land owners also have property rights and if cities infringe on those rights they run the risk of costly lawsuits.

Ideally, the goal should be smart growth, great design, respect for historic neighborhoods, acknowledgement of–and where possible– mitigation of the impact of development. And yes development has an impact. But to be fair, that impact can also be positive as well as negative.

The devil of course is in the details, but responsible development is not all about numbers: i.e. stories, height or the number of dwelling units per acre.

There’s an art to city building and efforts to drain subjectivity from the process are bound to be frustrating and self- defeating.

In Delray and Boca, we can point to numerous high density projects that work, because the architecture is beautiful and the developers took time to think about traffic flow, open space and how the development relates to adjoining neighborhoods.

I can also point to ugly projects that are both low and high density.

Last week, I received a notice from the City of Delray Beach regarding an update to the city’s Land Development Regulations. The purpose and I’m quoting the city here is to provide greater predictability in the regulations and the process and to incorporate more “form based” code elements emphasizing the importance of the public realm.


Form based codes can be good things and they can be awful too. In fact, our code is pretty good and already incorporates a lot of form based elements. But most importantly, it has worked enabling Delray to become a pretty good place. But there’s a sense– in some quarters anyway– that the answer to all bad development or perceived bad development can be solved by the code. It can’t.

If you want better design and development, you have to roll up your sleeves and work hard to get it.

That means working early in the process with developers and architects, not forcing them to guess about design and other concerns and then sandbagging them at a public meeting.

For developers it means engaging the public and really listening to concerns, not just ramming through projects because you think you have the upper hand politically. And for residents it means coming to the table with a respect for property rights, a knowledge of local zoning (easily attainable these days) and some ideas other than “go away.”

For all, it means working together and finding compromise, which usually means that everybody has to give up something. If you live adjacent to a downtown you have a right to be concerned with development and a vested interest to insist on great design. But you don’t have a right to think you live in a gated community—change is going to occur and the downtown belongs to everyone not just those who are fortunate enough to live there or nearby.

More than a tweak to our codes, what’s needed is a more intelligent discussion about growth, change, design density, traffic, walkability, pedestrian safety, vibrancy, open space etc.

You can’t legislate the art and subjectivity out of city building. You can’t devise a code that will be perfect and you’re not going to get every project right.

I served during a big real estate boom. I met greedy developers and really caring developers. I met genuinely concerned citizens and a few others that could not be reasoned with nor bothered by the facts. I served alongside some pretty good elected officials and we got some things right and a few things wrong. Contrary to rumors, we never granted a waiver or a variance for height and density, but we also didn’t fixate on numbers. We tried to support good projects and we tried to stop bad ones. Our code and master plan was flexible enough to give us those options.

But we also saw the process as an ongoing one of constant education, engagement, outreach and learning. We tried to protect the historic districts and put in new guidelines. We attempted design guidelines and invited local architects to share what would work and what wouldn’t. Our first attempt looked good on paper, but didn’t work in the real world and so we went back to the drawing board.

Plans are meant to live and breathe, not be so prescriptive that they squelch creativity. I hope that’s not where we are going.

Yes, the process should be predictable. It should not take months and months to approve or reject something. But cities need to be both protected and nurtured. They need to be preserved and they need to change. That’s the beauty of this work and that’s where the opportunities are, as well as the risks and pitfalls. You can’t legislate perfection nor can you devise a code—form based or antiquated as I’ve heard our code described—and expect to drain all subjectivity out of the process. Cities are about art and science. Not just numbers. There is no density number that can guarantee good design, no magic phrase or land development regulation that will ensure quality.

In Winter Park, the community and the leadership wants a vision that is values based rather than prescriptive. Values are a great place to start, because as one commissioner stated so beautifully Winter Park is not just about numbers it’s about how we relate and care for each other and our town. At the core of the issue—in Winter Park and elsewhere– is people long for a better way to talk about growth, change and development. Communities don’t want to be estranged, they long to connect and engage.

There’s no code yet devised that takes the place of working together and having honest and safe discussions over the future development of your home town. So we can meet at quasi-judicial hearings and debate whether a project should be 16 units or 19 units an acre even though there’s not a human being on the planet who can tell the difference or we can find a better way.

The passionate debate about the city’s identity, growth, character and future should never stop and there isn’t  acode on Earth that will answer every question. All a code can do is help you craft a community that is livable, attractive and sustainable. It’s a tool. Period.

The real work is to build a community where people discuss the future intelligently and get beyond the all change is either great or terrible mindset.

That’s the challenge and that is the opportunity.


FAU’s Promise

Football is only one part of the FAU vision for greatness

Football is only one part of the FAU vision for greatness

We went to the FAU football game Saturday and it was great.
A 41-37 thriller won by the Owls.
I’m embarrassed to say it was the first time I attended a game. I love football and FAU and I’ve had my share of opportunities but we just never seemed to go.
But when Beth Johnston, a dear friend who works for FAU, arranged for a Delray day and a spot in the President’s suite alongside friends we just had to go.  I’m glad we did.
The new stadium is beautiful.

The sight lines are great and the atmosphere is terrific. It’s college football and you get swept up in the excitement.
The crowd was fair, not empty but not filled either, but those who attended seemed to be having a wonderful time. Still, the program has some work to do in order to fill 30,000 seats. It’s important that they get there and it will be a landmark day for our community when it happens. And I think it will.
In addition to football, the afternoon was a primer on FAU. Beth is a great host and a passionate professional she wasn’t going to let this opportunity to connect people to FAU pass.

We started the afternoon with some FAU trivia that focused on the university’s academic accomplishments; which are surprising and considerable.
Over the course of the game we had a chance to mingle with President Kelly and his wife, FAU Board Chair Anthony Barbar and the newly appointed director of public leadership among others from the school and foundation.  It was an enlightening experience and President Kelly and his team exude vision, confidence and ambition. They yearn to be a top 25 university, a place of national significance and they seem to have a plan and a laser like focus to achieve that lofty goal.
We should not only be rooting for that to happen we ought to be involved in making it so. Because if FAU thrives and excels it’s good for all of us, especially it’s host city Boca and it’s neighbor Delray.
It’s also good for our kids and community. Businesses will have an educated workforce, entrepreneurs may decide to stay and others will locate here because of FAU’s research, resources and energy.
A great university is a valuable calling card and amenity for a region.
In my few minutes with President Kelly we discussed his tenure at Clemson and it’s impact on Greenville and the region which was significant. He’s enamored with Delray and is clearly reaching out for closer ties. So is Jorge Calzadilla, the recently hired VP of Public Service who did magnificent things for children in Clemson’s service area. Mr. Calzadilla also mentioned a desire to focus FAU’s resources on community issues especially those relating to children and families. This is an opportunity that city officials in Delray would be wise to embrace.
Chairman Barbar also sees the new administration as an amazing opportunity to fulfill FAU’s potential to impact the region. He and other business leaders recently travelled to Raleigh NC where they saw the power of three great universities to drive innovation and economic development in the Research Triangle area.

The folks in Raleigh have a significant head start but there is no barrier to this region becoming world class as well –provided we knock down some parochial walls that exist between counties, cities, other institutions and business organizations.
The moment is here because in our backyard we also have a terrific university in Lynn with an international student body, a visionary president and faculty and a dynamic business school and curriculum. We just have to work together, root for one another, make some strategic investments, get involved and yes attend a few games.
The future will thank us if we do.

Weekend Best Bets: Owls Football & Jazz

Jazz at the Arts Garage

Jazz at the Arts Garage

The weekend is here…

Our two recommendations:

Jowee Omicil @ The Arts Garage


What: JAZZ

Where: Arts Garage

When: Fri, Sep 26, 8:00PM 


Born in Canada to Haitian parents, Jowee has been called  “the future of Haitian Jazz Music…” While he plays everything from the saxophone to the flute and even the piccolo, Jowee is also a composer, producer, arranger, vocalist, band leader, and music instructor. He has collaborated with artists like Kenny Garrett, Roy Hargrove, Richard Bona, and Wyclef Jean. In 2010 he performed at the White House for President Obama’s inaugural observation of Haitian Flag Day. Don’t miss him!

Visit for more information.


FAU Football

Come see the Owls take on Texas-San Antonio at Schnellenger Field.

Kick off is 5 p.m.

Sometimes at yourdelrayboca we enjoy boasting. So if you go, look for us in the president’s box. That’s right, we live it up around these parts. Thanks to our friend Beth Johnston, of course.

The Roadrunners are 1-2, the Owls are 1-3 but we smell a victory.



Water Cooler Wednesday: Warren & Charlie’s Wisdom

When Charlie Munger speaks smart people listen.

When Charlie Munger speaks smart people listen.

Charlie Munger may be the coolest 90-year-old on the planet.

He’s certainly among the savviest investors of his or possibly any other age.

His partner is a gentleman named Warren Buffett and together Warren and Charlie have built Berkshire Hathaway into a colossus.

Last I checked, a single share of Berkshire was trading at nearly $210,000—that is not a typo.

The market share is over $330 billion, more than GE, way, way more.

So when Charlie talks—which is rare—people listen.

So last week, when he spoke at a meeting at a tiny legal publishing firm owned by Berkshire, people flocked from all over to hear him speak.

What they heard was pure wisdom, delivered with a huge dose of humor.

I didn’t go to the event and sadly I am still saving up to buy a single share.

But I did catch the coverage of the talk in the Wall Street Journal and one Charlie statement jumped off the page and struck me.

Next year, Warren and Charlie will be celebrating their 50th anniversary together at Berkshire. To honor their golden anniversary, Warren asked Charlie to ponder two questions: “Why did it work? And will it continue?”

Simple questions– on the surface at least –until you start to think about them and realize how deeply you have to delve to figure out why something was successful.

Since this blog is about Delray and Boca, I thought about Warren’s questions and how we might answer them.

So why did Delray and Boca work?
I think we can agree that while both cities are not perfect and must grapple with serious issues, for the most part fair minded people would characterize them as successful cities.

Boca has a famous brand name and is known for its great schools, superior parks, booming economy and manicured neighborhoods. I could go on.

Delray is known for its rocking downtown and its beautiful beach. It also has some interesting cultural assets as does Boca.

But those are symptoms, indicators, outcomes that don’t really answer why these cities have worked? They also aren’t guaranteed to continue, which is interesting to think about because it points out the fact that nothing is permanent. Success is not permanent, and happily neither is failure.

Downtowns can dry up. Big employers can move in and move out. Natural disasters can do damage and great schools can suffer if you take your eye off the blackboard.

So again, why did it work?
Let’s take a look at Delray first.

I think Delray worked because the city was entrepreneurial when it needed to be.

I recently had lunch with a former veteran department head, one in a series of thought provoking lunches that I have come to look forward too. We spoke about how Delray was focused on outcomes more so than process.

The leadership tasked city staff with getting things done (legally and morally of course) which allowed for some creativity and innovation on the staff level.

The results were dramatic: the city came a long way and went from Dull Ray to Delray over a two decade period of time. Problems were solved, solutions were shared and the city earned a reputation for innovation and a style that some called the “Delray way.”

There’s a lot of upside to focusing on outcomes. But there are some downsides as well.

When process is sacrificed, it can sometimes stray a little too far (for instance, you need to bid contracts, you should always engage the public and even flexible zoning should have limits).  So yes, cities and businesses need process, but not at the expense of creativity, fairness and predictability. City planning is more art than science; which is why it was genius in Delray to have something called “conditional use.”

Conditional use has been demonized and misunderstood over the years. It’s been lumped in with waivers and variances and all those other loaded terms, but in reality conditional use is a tool that allows developers (another loaded term) to get something if they give something. As a policymaker, I loved it. Why? Because it allowed us to make good projects happen and it allowed us to kill bad projects.

I liked having that flexibility.

Conditional use was one of the reasons why it happened, Mr. Munger.

I can’t be as opinionated about Boca, I don’t know that city as well. So I would invite readers to opine. But my guess is that Boca placed a high value on business and quality of life, as evidenced by a magnificent parks system, funded in part by a tax district.

As for whether it will continue, that’s up to us and who we elect to lead us.

Stray too far from the winning formula and it probably won’t continue. There are all sorts of examples of places that boomed and then went bust. But if you refuse to innovate and acknowledge change, you’re also dooming yourself.

Regardless, Warren’s questions of his partner Charlie are queries we all should ponder.


Three Things to Know This Week

Start your week right

Start your week right

4th Annual “Stand Down” 

Benefits Veterans in Need 
The 4th Annual “Stand Down”, an effort dedicated to providing support for our veterans in need, will be held on Saturday, September 27, from 12pm – 5pm, at Pompey Park, 1101 NW 2nd Street.  Hosted by Faith*Hope*Love*Charity, Inc. in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor and West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), the event is free and open to the public.
Over fifty organizations will be onsite to assist at risk and homeless veterans offering free food, clothing, health screenings, employment opportunities, VA enrollment, haircuts and much more.  Services will also be available for the general public.  In addition, children will enjoy fun activities that are planned throughout the day including music, live entertainment and a kids zone.


For more information, contact Joshua Maddock at (561) 968-1612 or E-mail

The Blue Print Gallery

When: Sept. 26 at 6:30pm
Where: The Milagro Center, 695 Auburn Ave

The Blue Print Gallery is the first gallery opening at The Milagro Center. Come out and support this amazing organization.

For more information: contact Anna Girgis 561-279-2970.

Issues Watch

The Delray Beach Police Benevolent Association ratcheted up some pressure last week with an email that went to HOA leaders, business owners and residents outlining concerns about losing officers due to concerns with wages and benefits.

The email was widely circulated and asked for people to get involved and pressure the city commission to raise salaries for officers or risk losing them to other agencies.

We’ll keep you posted on the issue.

Weekend Best Bets: Jazz Guitar Edition

Legendary jazz guitarist Larry Coryell is playing two shows this weekend at the Arts Garage.

Legendary jazz guitarist Larry Coryell is playing two shows this weekend at the Arts Garage.

Legendary Guitarist Visits Arts Garage


When: Fri, Sep 19 & Sat, Sep 20, 8:00PM 


Larry Coryell is a master jazz guitarist who has remained in the pantheon of great jazz guitarists for more than 30 years. He has recorded over 100 albums, performed with Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix and graced the front page of Rolling Stone magazine and the inside pages of many others including Guitar Player.

Visit for  tickets. Hurry, they go fast.

Kids Safety & Wellness Day in Boca

When: September 20, from 10am-3pm

Where: Costco, 17800 N Congress Ave., Boca Raton

How much: Free

Please join Costco for their  annual Kid’s Safety & Wellness Day.

 They are pleased to present the PBSO Greyhounds Sonic and Missile, PBSO Child ID, PBFR Firefighters & Engine  (unless out on a call) and All for One Pet Rescue, Personal Ponies, Boca Raton Children’s Museum, Boca Regional Urgent Care, and i9 Sports.

Sounds like a full dance card.

The Green Artistry of Contemporary Eco Artist Del Foxton

When: September 19 from 7-9pm

Cost: Free

Where: The Arts Arena Gallery, 777 E Atlantic Ave (Atlantic Plaza).

Fox is an immensely talented and unique artist, come out and meet her. Visit for more information.



All Aboard; Not So Fast

Passenger rail may come with a heavy price for some east coast cities.

Passenger rail may come with a heavy price for some east coast cities.

As an urbanist, I want to like All Aboard Florida.

I really do.

Florida needs passenger rail—especially rail that can serve our eastern downtowns– and I’m not averse to high speed rail either.

We need to find a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly way to transports people and give them options other than the car. So on a conceptual level I was ready to embrace All Aboard Florida.

But the devil—as they say—is in the details. it always is.

First, it’s hard to understand the politics, PR and marketing of All Aboard Florida.

If you live in Boca Raton or Delray Beach or anyplace other than West Palm Beach, Orlando or Miami –cities with stops and train stations –why would you support this effort? What’s in it for us, other than watching lots of trains zip by our communities.

In 2001, when Delray Beach embarked on its Downtown Master Plan, we anticipated passenger rail and incorporated a downtown train station into our plan.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to bring people to downtown Delray via rail? Not only would passenger rail have alleviated some traffic it would have been a boon to downtown businesses and might have made it easier for downtown residents to commute to jobs outside of town.

I remember attending meetings in Fort Lauderdale with mayors from Broward and Palm Beach in which we plotted strategy to make eastern passenger rail happen. At one meeting, frustrated by the seemingly endless process, one mayor suggested it would be quicker and cheaper to engineer a leveraged buyout of the railroad than it would to wait for the private sector actors to make it happen.

Fast forward a decade and it appears that high speed rail is on the way—but it seems that lots of cities, including Delray Beach will endure the inconvenience of high speed rail and none of the advantages.


Why would All Aboard Florida think they can steamroll cities with 30 plus trains a day without the benefit of any of them stopping here to pick up our residents and drop off others who can enjoy our city?

What’s in it for us is not a selfish question but rather an essential one.

Citizen groups, such as Florida Not All Aboard have outlined dozens of arguments against the plan ranging from financial concerns and noise issues to safety concerns and what they feel the real motivations are behind the plan.

Yet according to what’s been written it appears that this deal is going to be hard to derail.

The sad part is, it didn’t have to be this way.

Even the most passionate members of the opposition acknowledge that there is public support for reasonable passenger rail that would serve east coast cities. But this deal feels forced, not well thought out and cloaked in intrigue.

Regardless, this is not what was envisioned when several residents gathered and planned for the day when passenger rail might serve downtown Delray. We had the audacity to hope that the train would actually stop in our downtown.

We saw all sorts of benefits to that vision, but nobody stood up and said “gee I hope we see 32 trains speeding by.”

So much of our work downtown was meant to slow things down and promote walkability vs. automobiles.

Whether it was encouraging downtown housing and a better mix of uses or slowing down speeding traffic on US 1—it was all done in service to building a vibrant, walkable, sustainable urban core.

Passenger rail, trolleys, bikes and even golf carts fit that vision.

What’s being offered by Florida All Aboard challenges that vision, if  it doesn’t kill it.

It’s too bad really, because if they worked with coastal cities and residents they might find more support and a more sustainable model.

But it appears that train has left the station.  What a missed opportunity.



FAU Celebrates $3.5 Million Grant: Will Produce Computer Science & Engineering Grads


FAU seeks to align graduates with business needs

FAU seeks to align graduates with business needs


FAU recently hosted a celebration of the rollout of the Florida Board of Governors’ Targeted Educational Attainment (TEAm) grant program.

The Board of Governors awarded FAU, Broward College (BC) and Palm Beach State College (PBSC) a $3.5 million state grant through the TEAm program — an ambitious effort to align university and college degrees with the state’s future workforce needs — to create an accelerated pipeline for students in the economically important fields of computer science and computer engineering.

FAU, BC and PBSC created the Computer Accelerated Pipeline to Unlock Regional Excellence (CAPTURE) program to address the need for computer-related workforce development in South Florida, providing superior learning and professional development opportunities for more than 400 anticipated new students. The three institutions are collaborating on developing a hybrid curriculum to address workforce needs.

“We expect this program to significantly increase the number of well-qualified computer professionals available for employment in a wide variety of local businesses,” said FAU President John Kelly. “We hope to be able to replicate this approach in other fields of study that have an escalating need for highly skilled employees.”

The proposed curriculum is innovative and includes new and existing courses offered by the three institutions, taught by faculty who are leaders in the computer technology field. The number of bachelor degrees in computer science and computer engineering will be increased by the FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science, and graduates of the state colleges will be offered seamless admission to FAU. Students will be drawn into the pipeline from the three institutions’ existing student bodies, employees of major corporations and graduating high school students in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

“The program stresses breadth, depth and flexibility,” said Palm Beach State College President Dennis Gallon. “Although all students will be required to satisfy core requirements, they will have the ability to choose tracks and electives in accordance with their needs and interests.”

Practical training will be provided through internships in industry and government agencies, providing early exposure to the computer technology sector.

“One of the most helpful features of the program is the system of shared advising, which will keep students on track,” said Broward College President J. David Armstrong Jr. “Students will be able to take courses at the colleges and FAU simultaneously to hasten their progress toward graduation.”

The TEAm grant awards follow more than 18 months of work by The Commission on Florida Higher Education Access and Attainment, a coalition of education, business and legislative leaders that identified the largest gaps between bachelor’s degree production and job needs. The effort marks an unprecedented level of collaboration between elected leaders, universities, state colleges and the business community. The project is supported by the Florida Board of Governors.

Weekend Best Bets: Catch A Rising Star Edition

A can't miss talent

Polly Gibbons: A special talent


Catch a Rising Star

Polly Gibbons is one of the most respected and talked about young singer/songwriters of her generation.

Luckily, she is making her North American debut at Arts Garage, Friday, Sept. 12 at 8 p.m.

Being nominated for a BBC Jazz Award back in 2006 with no album release to her name was a clear indication of just how special a singer and performer Polly is. With warm, rich, soulful vocals and an innate blues sensibility, Polly has been likened to many of the jazz and soul greats, while bringing her own storytelling and earnest depth alongside unique humor and fun to performances. Having developed her craft over the past decade, Polly has performed at all the leading UK jazz clubs, international festivals and is a regular at Ronnie Scott’s performing with the All Stars.

With an innate vocal versatility, Polly is a much sought-after session talent, working on various projects including: a track with hip hop group Vinyl Dialect, on Wall of Sound’s Bad Magic label, and co-writing and performing a song on the British Soul compilation album, ‘Diggz Presents Random Soul on Random Records. Polly was featured alongside such jazz luminaries as Ian Shaw, Jacqui Dankworth and Gwyneth Herbert on an album entitled The Music of BB Cooper, and has spent many occasions recording and performing with renowned artist and producer Ian Shaw.

Don’t believe us, trust the experts:

“A truly exceptional, once in a generation talent, possessing a voice of such sizzling intensity and raw emotion you could fry an egg on it.” Peter Quinn, Jazzwise Magazine

“They don’t come along very often, but this one’s a star.” Johnny Mandel.

Visit for tickets.

Volleyball returns to Delray Beach

Professional and amateur volleyball players will compete in the Extreme Volleyball Professionals (EVP) Pro, Amateur and Juniors Southeast Championships on Saturday, September 13, at Delray’s Municipal Beach. This is the fourth consecutive year that our City has been selected as the site for the EVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, which is being co-sponsored by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.

World-class athletes will display their exceptional talent and physical abilities on the sand courts from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm as they battle for the coveted 1st prize.  The EVP ProSeries National Championship is a free spectator event and the public is invited to spend the day experiencing the excitement of this team sport.

For more information, including event schedule, visit

Bodybuilding and Bikini Competition

For those of you who appreciate natural bodybuilders and not those enhanced by steroids, you’ll want to check out the ANBF South Florida Natural Bodybuilding and Bikini Competition Saturday, Sept. 13 from 5 to 9 p.m.

The event will take place at 2880 NW Boca  Raton Blvd. #2.

Tell them Dave sent you.


Nuance: There’s Always A Bigger Picture

Asset or albatross? Who cares, it's there. Let's make the most of it.

Asset or albatross? Who cares, it’s there. Let’s make the most of it.

It’s a great week to talk tennis.

We just witnessed another fabulous U.S. Open with a very strong Delray Beach subtext.

The men’s finals pitted Marin Cilic against Kei Nishikori, two former Delray Open Champions. Both Cilic—the defending champion—and Nishikori, the 2008 winner are expected back at Delray’s ATP tournament this winter.

The Bryan brothers, the U.S. Open Doubles champions, are also expected back. Playing the Delray stop on the tour has become a tradition for the most successful doubles team of all time.

Women’s champion Serena Williams also has Delray connections which include playing two Fed Cup ties at the Delray stadium.

Whether you’re a fan or not, tennis looms large in the Delray story; in 2010, City Commissioners renamed the city “Tennis Beach” for a week in honor of the United States Tennis Association recognizing Delray as one of America’s top tennis towns.

In 1991, former Mayor Tom Lynch and the city commission made a decision to rebuild the tennis center and add a tennis stadium downtown, a decision Mr. Lynch has always cited as one of the key building blocks to rehabbing downtown and the city’s brand.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to have breakfast with Mayor Lynch. He still believes that the downtown stadium changed the dynamics in Delray by bringing people downtown and getting them to think differently about the city. That bold decision came at a time when Delray’s image was in need of repair and when the city longed for the day when parking and traffic might be an issue.

After leaving breakfast, I filmed a tribute video for Tom who is receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Chamber of Commerce next month. The young couple supervising the shoot cited the Delray Stadium and the chance to see world class tennis on the same street that they live on as a compelling reason why they love Delray and chose to buy a home here. Of course, there are other factors, but the allure seemed to be a small town, with big city amenities, including festivals, art, culture, restaurants and yes tennis.

I bring this up because there seems to be some angst regarding the cost of the stadium and the tournaments which also include some national junior events and a Champions Tour event which brings  legends like McEnroe and Lendl to town.

As the city grapples with the budget, $2 million items stand out. There is a price to pay to host these events, a real cost that becomes acute when there are other needs including paying for cops, firefighters, public works employees, pension costs etc. etc. The list goes on; I get it, having worked on seven budgets during my time in public office. Unlike the federal government, local government budgets have to balance and expenditures needs to be weighed carefully against city goals and visions. Hopefully, those goals and visions mesh with the community’s needs and aspirations and derive from extensive community input. That’s been the Delray way.

So what about the big expense associated with the stadium and the ATP event?

Should the city sell the stadium? Should the city get rid of the tournament? Or should the city further invest in the facility which is now starting to show its age (I’m not sure the seats were meant to recline, just saying)?

This is a healthy debate to have, but if you are going to have it, you need to look beyond the balance sheet, which while very important, is only one piece of the puzzle–albeit a big piece.

Decisions of this magnitude require careful analysis of a wide range of factors. There’s a lot of nuance involved beyond numbers on a spreadsheet.

There is no doubt that the ATP event attracts people who spend money in local restaurants, retail shops and hotels. Does the city see that money? Not directly, but a healthy local economy certainly helps pay the bills. And the junior events, held in the so-called “off season” puts heads in beds as kids typically are accompanied by coaches, parents, siblings and others who hope to see the next generation of stars.

Further, tennis has done a lot for the city’s image and brand, as Mayor Lynch envisioned. I think we may be the smallest city in the world with an ATP event and the coverage that event receives is worldwide via press, TV and even commercial spots done expressly to exhibit Delray Beach to the world. I did one of those spots a few years back, produced pro bono by local resident Jim Sclafani of Multi Image Group. We received inquiries about visits and real estate for months after the spots ran.

It wasn’t my face or voice over that did the trick (after all, I have a face for radio) but shots of the ocean, the vibrant downtown and quaint neighborhoods that compelled more than a few people seek us out.

I recently read an article about Apple’s $3 billion plus purchase of Beats, a trendy headphone company. Did Apple overpay for a fad? Maybe. Did Apple need the headphones to survive? Hardly.

But Apple saw a need to remain relevant with a demographic it deems important for its future. Cities also have to remain cognizant of their appeal as places to live, work, learn and play. In that context, the ATP event and stadium has a cool factor attached to it. I think it’s an asset. It sets us apart, it gives our downtown gravitas and it signals that this is a different kind of place.

Of course, Delray doesn’t have Apple’s war chest, few nations, never mind cities do. So how about forming a public private task force that could look at ways to stop some of the bleeding and perhaps find some additional revenue streams?
There are some very bright entrepreneurial minds in the community who I am certain would be interested in delving into the issue.

Rather than dismiss and label a facility a losing proposition, why not engage people and find some solutions?

Why not find a way to make this long ago investment work now and in the future? Or at least try.