Recent Updates:

One Of A Kind Deal For FAU

FAU, Max Planck and Scripps are making history

FAU, Max Planck and Scripps are making history

One of Florida’s leading public research universities and two of the world’s premier research institutions will create one-of-a-kind education programs that will attract the best and brightest students to Palm Beach County, and transform Florida Atlantic University’s John D. MacArthur Campus in Jupiter into a hub of scientific inquiry, innovation and economic development.

FAU, and the globally acclaimed Max Planck Florida Institute and The Scripps Research Institute, will build on existing relationships to further scientific discovery and education through shared resources and facilities.

The three institutions will provide undergraduate and graduate students the unprecedented opportunity to enroll in unique degree programs in collaboration with Max Planck and Scripps Florida at the MacArthur Campus.

The initiative will allow students to work and study alongside some of the world’s leading scientific researchers as part of their degree programs, while undergraduate research projects will be mentored by these same scientists.

The Institutes will collaborate to develop premier STEM programs — Science, Technology, Engineering, Math — and combine FAU Jupiter’s existing strengths in STEM areas, with support from the arts, to create a leading STEAM initiative.

FAU President John Kelly said the alliance will help cure diseases, develop drugs, educate students and generate jobs. FAU’s economic impact on Florida’s economy during 2010-2011, the most recently available data, was $6.3 billion. This initiative creates unique opportunities for FAU’s colleges of science, medicine, and engineering and computer science to greatly increase that number, Kelly said.

“This initiative comes from the core of economic development,” Kelly said. “FAU, Max Planck and Scripps will solve real-world problems and take strides to improve human health.

“We will create the knowledge economy of the future,” he said. “Moreover, we will provide students unique scientific research programs that will be the envy of the world.”

A shared facilities environment will provide students access to state-of-the-art scientific equipment. Max Planck and Scripps Florida researchers will have access to FAU faculty, teaching space, and research equipment.

James Paulson, acting president and CEO of The Scripps Research Institute, said the Scripps mission is to build a world-class biomedical research presence in Florida for the benefit of human health and to train the next generation of scientists.

“We believe this new agreement strengthens our existing collaboration with FAU and the Max Planck Institute and enables us to work more closely with our local partners to achieve these critical goals,” Paulson said.

David Fitzpatrick, CEO and scientific director at Max Planck, said, importantly, the collaboration will increase research funding in areas of common interest. The Max Planck Florida Institute’s research focus is neuroscience, specifically, gaining insights into brain circuitry. The institute utilizes some of the world’s most advanced technologies in brain research.

“Combining our resources makes this collaboration a potent force in the scientific and healthcare fields,” Fitzpatrick said. “The advances we can take in many important research areas will be significant.

“Together, FAU, Max Planck and Scripps will train the scientific leaders of tomorrow,” he said.

Creating Livable Cities

Building Livable and Engaged Cities is the goal of the Knight Foundation.

Building Livable and Engaged Cities is the goal of the Knight Foundation.

I’m a huge fan of the Knight Foundation.

I wish we had more foundations that invested in our local communities.

Way back in 2001, when we were embarking on the downtown master plan, we were able to attract the support of the MacArthur Foundation. They not only paid for the creation of the plan, but they provided intellectual resources and connections that were invaluable.

Their local program leader, David Harris, was a big a fan of Delray Beach, and he encouraged us to expand our thinking by including the West Atlantic community and our northwest and southwest  neighborhoods in our vision for a sustainable downtown. MacArthur invested in some of our community leaders and as a result we travelled to conferences and events where we were able to connect with other communities and learn from their successes and their missteps.

Around this time, we had conversations with the Ford Foundation and a few other large and small groups who were intrigued by what they were seeing in Delray Beach. Our diversity, our ambition, our ability to work together impressed foundation leaders coast to coast. We were America in 16 square miles, with conditions that ranged from third world poverty to the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

While we stayed close with MacArthur we never quite closed the deal with some of the others and that’s a regret, because a great foundation would have a field day with the promise and the potential that is Delray Beach.

Still, when we were building and visioning we made some connections that proved to be invaluable to our progress. One of those connections was an urban thinker by the name of Carol Coletta.

I discovered Carol through her radio show “Smart City” which was a weekly talk show on NPR that spotlighted the best of what was happening in cities around the country. One of my greatest thrills was appearing on Smart City where I was able to tell a national audience about what we were working on as a team here in Delray.

When we decided to do a Cultural Plan, we engaged Carol whose firm had done landmark work in cities across the country. Carol and her team didn’t disappoint, the cultural plan was a great vision because it articulated Delray’s strengths and our place in South Florida’s cultural landscape.

Our brand was authentic and intimate—and Carol urged us not to compete with the Broward Center’s and Kravis’ of the world but to create experiences that people could not find in larger cities or larger venues. Her work, which was adopted by the City Commission a decade ago, inspired the Arts Garage and also influenced the evolution of the Delray Center for the Arts and one could argue the CRA’s decision to purchase the Arts Warehouse which has helped to grow “Artist’s Alley”, an amazing nook in our city near Third Street and Third Avenue.

That’s what visions do…they inspire, but they also take you in directions you never thought possible.

Last week, the Knight Foundation, where Carol now serves as Vice President for Community and National Initiatives, released a report on “Livable Cities”. It ought to be required reading for policymakers, city staff and all those who care about making their communities better.

Knight lists Four Pillars for Livable Cities. They are:

WALKABILITY: To design streets for everybody, design for pedestrians first – slow speeds, raised crosswalks. Next, make streets interesting for walkers.

BIKEABILITY: Success isn’t more Spandex; it’s a woman biking to a business meeting dressed exactly as if she were driving. First step:  Make bikers feel safe.

PUBLIC SPACES: Parks, walkable streets and other public places are great equalizers; they bring people together, and they can energize people through recreation.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: High-speed buses with dedicated lanes are the most cost-effective way to move people, though offering choices to commuters is best of all.

It’s a great list, isn’t it?

And all of the pillars come with suggestions and rationales for implementation.

For example, walkability:

Key Points

  • Lowering the speed of cars is essential. An accident at 20 mph has a 5 percent mortality rate; at 40 mph the mortality rate climbs to 85 percent.
  • Adding medians to streets lowers accidents by 56 percent.
  • Giving pedestrians the walk signal six to seven seconds before the light turns green makes them visible to turning cars.
  • Encouraging each block to have multiple establishments instead of long facades makes the streetscape friendly and interesting.
  • It’s possible to prioritize pedestrians and still allow cars, but prioritizing cars rarely works well for pedestrians.

The report concludes with a calculator that enables you to type in your city and receive a walkability and transit score on a scale of 0-100. Delray scores a 91 on walkability, Boca rates a 53, Boynton a score of 57 and West Palm leads the pack with a score of 95. All four cities score 0 on transit.

It’s a worthy read and we suggest you dive in by visiting: http://www.knightfoundation.org/features/livable-cities/?mc_cid=b611e6d9fb&mc_eid=c683592e53

Kudos to the Knight Foundation for their work.

10 Years Gone

forever

Today marks 10 years since the death of Jerrod Miller.

Today also marks the anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death in Sanford, Florida.

After witnessing the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City this year, I am grateful that we were able to keep the peace in Delray Beach in 2005. That we were able to do so does not mean that the shooting did not cause searing pain in our community, it most assuredly did. And still does.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Jerrod and his family. He was the same age as my daughter when he died and his loss resonated with my family in a very personal and deep way. I often see his face in dreams and I still pray for him and his family.

I’m often asked why we didn’t spiral out of control when Jerrod, 15, was shot by an off-duty rookie police officer while driving a car outside a school dance at the Delray Full Service Center.

There is no short or simple answer to that question, I’m just grateful that we were able to grieve and communicate in a way that did not tear us apart or hurt others.

There is no playbook to turn too when tragedies like this occur. But there are certain values that communities can embrace  that can help when tragedies occur.

Former Police Chief Rick Overman used to talk about building a reservoir of goodwill in the community. He would tell me and others that in his line of work, it was not a matter of  if bad things would happen, but a matter of when. He wanted his department –and his city– to have a reservoir of good will to draw upon when tragedy would strike.

So community policing is not just a feel good PR exercise. It’s an effective strategy for officers to connect with the people they are sworn to protect and serve. Relationships between law enforcement and communities are critical. If you don’t have a good one, all bets are off when bad things happen and they always happen.

We tend to focus on pensions and wages when we talk about police these days. But the plain truth of the matter is we would not have the Delray that we know and most of us love if we did not have a very, very good and effective police department. In order for people to invest and take risks on businesses, development projects or even buying a home in a community they first have to feel safe.

The Delray Police Department made our success possible. That is not to say that we don’t have problems: we do. We suffer from too much crime, drug addiction and other immense challenges. And this is not to say that we have a perfect PD. But make no mistake, this not an easy place to be a police officer and we have been blessed with some great ones.

As a result, today I feel safe downtown. And when I moved here I didn’t.

Community policing,, traditional law enforcement, great detective work and special programs such as Kids and Cops, Toy Drives etc., helped us enormously in the run up to and in the aftermath of Feb. 26. 2005. So did personal relationships between officers and community leaders and between elected officials and members of the community.

I was blessed to have served with a very good city commission. We got along. What a concept.

They supported me and you need that support;  because when you sit in the mayor’s chair during shootings and hurricanes the buck stops with you. It can be a lonely and overwhelming job but it helps to know that people have your back. It’s not all ribbon cuttings and chicken dinners.

But you can’t be effective on your own. You need a team. The entire commission and many key people on city staff stepped up and kept the lines of communication with the community open. Commissioner Alberta McCarthy especially–did yeoman’s work during this critical time.

So today, on the 10th anniversary of a very sad day in Delray, I remember Jerrod and his family. And I pray for our city and for all those who live here and all those who protect and serve.

 

Raising The Bar on Quality of Place

Millennium Park in Chicago is an example of how placemaking can elevate a city.

Millennium Park in Chicago is an example of how placemaking can elevate a city.

“Cities are full of overlapping memories; overlapping stories. The city is not just bricks and mortar. It’s about love; of the people for their place. It’s not possible for the master plan to answer all the questions, but we can create a robust framework that allows life to take place. Invitations to walk. To sit. To stay. A better way to cross the street. A better way to live your life.” ~David Sim, Gehl Architects

With Boca and Delray experiencing angst about development it seems that we have reached a crossroads.

We have some choices to make.

We can reach for the Xanax, give up, or begin a communitywide conversation on how this all works or doesn’t work.

In Boca, there is a major debate about tall buildings in the downtown. In Delray Beach, the debate rages over height, density, traffic and whether or not there should incentives for certain uses.

Nothing is going to change until March 10 when both cities hold municipal elections. But as soon as the dust clears, the conversation should begin. In fact, the conversation about the future growth of development of our community should never end.

So even though Delray has just adopted new LDR’s which contain some good things (preserving the scale of Atlantic Avenue, introducing green building principles etc.) and some bad things (hard density caps and a raft of technical issues raised by planners, architects and engineers and no incentives for desired uses) it doesn’t mean that this issue is settled or that the dialogue should end.

Plans and rules are not sacrosanct, the best plans live and breathe and change with the desires of the community and or the evolving realities of the marketplace. As such, switched on leaders should be keeping the conversation going, educating, elevating, measuring and engaging all the way.

The beauty of cities is that you are never done and the best led communities understand that complacency is a killer.

That’s why it’s great news that the legendary Fred Kent, founder of the Project for Public Spaces (www.pps.org) will be hosting a discussion on placemaking Wednesday, Feb. 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Arts Garage in downtown Delray Beach.

Kent, who happens to live part time in Delray, is arguably the world’s foremost expert on placemaking or the art of creating wonderful public spaces. He’s also an authority on public markets and is a regular at Delray’s Green Market, a terrific program run by Delray’s CRA.

Mayor Cary Glickstein wants to focus on making the most of Delray’s public assets, a laudable goal and something that cities worldwide are doing. Whether it’s known as “urban acupuncture”, tactical urbanism, placemaking or leveraging so-called “lazy assets”, cities large and small are taking a fresh look at what they own and trying to imagine how these places can look and feel better.

Last week, the Knight Foundation published a report called “Livable Cities” which called for communities to invest in building places for people not cars; a simple concept to understand but one that has eluded many cities for years as we promote car oriented sprawl through our zoning policies.

Human Powered Delray, a grassroots organization, gets that and is doing terrific work to raise awareness about the importance of these issues.

When we talk about building places for people, we are really about design.

Urban Land Institute Scholar Ed McMahon gives a wonderful TED Talk on the importance of design for cities.

“The image of a community is fundamentally important to its economic well -being,” says McMahon. “Decisions such as where to invest, where to work, where to retire, and where to vacation are all made based on what a community looks like.”

In today’s economy, the quality of place matters the most. “In a world where capital is footloose, if you can’t differentiate [your town] from any other, you have no competitive advantage,” he says.

Amen.

Urbanist Peter Kageyama  has the same message. His wonderful book “For the Love of Cities” talks about the importance of creating places and experiences that make people fall in love with their cities.

When you fall in love, you commit, you invest and you spread the word which attracts more commitment, investment and positive buzz.  The “extras” are how cities differentiate themselves from the pack and it is how places become invaluable.

A good place to start is to look at what you already own; your town squares, right of ways, parks, beaches, cultural institutions, libraries etc.

Placemaking doesn’t have to be expensive or grand, but it does have to put people first and it has to be different and authentic.

Boca and Delray have unique assets and incredible potential. The potential is literally boundless.

Mizner Park is a nationally recognized lifestyle center anchored by a stage that hosts cultural events. Boca also has incredible parks and Palmetto Park Road in east Boca has tremendous upside.

Delray, of course, has great bones; a grid system, human scale, vibrancy and a main street that empties into an ocean. It also has some “lazy” assets that can be so much more including a tennis stadium, a downtown park and municipal parking lots that can be used to create more parking and a mix of uses.

Here’s hoping that when the dust settles on the municipal elections, we stop the pandering and get back to a serious discussion on design and how our cities can work better for people.

Tis The Season

Jon Stewart regularly skewers pandering pols.

Jon Stewart regularly skewers pandering pols.

We are entering the silly season aka the local election cycle.

Within days our medians will be populated with signs and very soon our mailboxes filled with campaign literature.

This is the time of year when every politician is fighting “greedy” developers, taking a stand against crime and “fighting” for lower taxes.

Every single person running will be a “champion” of better schools and every candidate has a plan to fix traffic.

Yawn.

Can you spell, pander? P is for pathetic. A is for awful. N is for nauseating. D is for disrespectful. E is for eeek. And R is for get real.

On the national level, it’s all about raising money. And the best way to raise money is to pander. After all, pandering is a lot easier than coming up with a solution to the myriad challenges facing our nation at any given time.

I recently read that once elected to Congress, representatives are instructed (ordered?) by their leadership to spend six hours a day calling and reaching out to donors. That leaves barely two hours to do the actual job. If that doesn’t disgust you, I don’t know what will.

On the local level, campaigns have gotten more expensive as well.  That’s not good news. But what’s even worse is how inane and devoid of ideas so many local races are.

It must feel good to bash development, pander to people’s fears about crime and pretend that you are running for School Board, but the truth is I have a strong hunch that voters want more; more depth, more analysis, more ideas, more solutions and more information about how you will conduct yourself if you happen to get elected.

Do you work well with others? Will you show up for meetings?

Will you dodge the tough issues with strategic absences or by kicking the can down the road?

Do have a vision for your community? Do you know how to collaborate or are you a lone wolf?

What happens if you lose a tough vote? Will you move on or will you launch a war against all those who disagree with you on one issue?

Will you do your homework? Can you interact with key staff or are you a bully who pretends you are somehow above the fray? Will you reach out beyond the usual suspects before casting a vote or will you cede your vote to a Svengali who will use you like a puppet?

I believe that the best and most impactful level of government is local government. If you have an idea on a Tuesday night and two other teammates agree, things can begin happening on Wednesday morning. That’s the beauty of local government. So is voting around the block from where you live, it keeps you grounded and it keeps you in touch with your constituents; if you’re a listener that is. If you wall yourself off from humanity or opposing points of view, all bets are off.

I have come to believe that elected office is a job to do, not a job to have.

When I served from 2000-07, we were focused on what we called the “big rocks.”

At that time, the big rocks meant creating a downtown master plan, creating and implementing a new vision and zoning rules for the Congress Avenue corridor, drafting a cultural plan, passing a parks bond, partnering with non-profits on efforts to break the cycle of poverty, stepping up with a plan to stop attrition and rebuild staffing levels at our police and fire departments, creating a Community Land Trust, partnering with our high school to create and support career academies, improving communication with residents, launching a race relations initiative, supporting our police department when two members had an idea to create a charter school, adding summer reading programs and working with the neighborhoods on historic preservation and the southwest plan.

Some of the stuff we did was popular and some of it was hugely controversial—relocating Atlantic High School, purchasing land to create Bexley Park, approving downtown townhouse projects and trying to craft a plan to add bike lanes on A1A felt like near death experiences at the time.

But if you want to make an impact you have to take risks, you have to stand for something.

You also  have to have a vision for what you want to accomplish if you are privileged to be entrusted to help set policy for your city.

So yes, it’s easy to bash developers and development, but what about property rights? How will you pay the bills if you don’t grow your tax base? What’s your strategy for economic development? What’s your definition of smart, responsible growth? Are you willing to articulate it?

I was confronted by an angry resident over development a few weeks back. When she told me where she lived, I told her that there was a line out the door of people protesting her townhouse project.

“Why?” she asked. “It’s beautiful.”

“Because people feared the dreaded D word, density and traffic that would be generated if the project was approved,” I answered.

“But I didn’t move downtown to drive,” she said. “We walk everywhere.”

Thanks for making my point.

I guess I’m not a big fan of the “I’m in the boat, pull up the ladder” school of thinking.

Delray and Boca Raton are prime examples of cities that have impacted local education. But voters want to hear what your ideas are and how you expect to get it done.

We all worry about crime and want safe, attractive neighborhoods. What ideas do you have relating to these important topics? Are you a fan of community policing? Or do you prefer a more traditional law and order approach?

Some lucky folks are going to find themselves in office after Election Day? What happens when a controversial development gets filed with  your planning department? Will you roll up your sleeves and meet with the dreaded developer and try and shape the project so it looks good, fits in and works? Or will you wall yourself off and then pander at the public hearing? Will you judge projects based on their merits and the code or will you only support projects from people who supported your campaign financially? Do you have the ability to vote your conscience even if it angers a room full of people, many of whom are your friends and neighbors?

It’s easy to pander, harder to lead. It’s easy to speak in platitudes, harder to articulate a vision. It’s easy to play to your political base and a whole lot harder to engage the whole community, bridge divides and build consensus.

Vote on March 10, but also challenge candidates to go a level deeper on the issues of importance to you. It’s better to see what they are made of now, before you give them the keys to your city’s budget and policies.

 

 

 

Breaking From the Competitive Herd

Harvard Professor Youngme Moon visited Lynn U. last week.

Harvard Professor Youngme Moon visited Lynn U. last week. Her book is a seminal study of how companies can break from the competitive herd.

Harvard Business School Professor Youngme Moon wrote one of the best  business books in recent times. The kind of book you keep going back to because it contains amazing insights and information.

“Different” is an elegantly written treatise on how to break away from the competitive herd and build a company that is different and meaningful.

Last week, thanks to President Dr. Kevin Ross of Lynn University I had a chance to meet Professor Moon and listen to her wow the crowd at the “Dively Lecture Series” at the magnificent Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn.

In an engaging talk that covered “different” companies such as Ikea, Twitter, Google and “the Mini” Cooper, Dr. Moon laid out a compelling case for why we long for brands and experiences that are different and meaningful not stale and boring.

Too many brands are of the “me too” variety touting qualities such as “new and improved” or “cheaper and faster”; for the consumer it’s all a blur.

But the outliers, the companies that truly stick out, have an attitude that makes them stand out  and break away from the herd.

Can you imagine pitching an idea for a furniture store that would only feature one type of design (Scandinavian), would offer stores with virtually no sales associates and force you to build the furniture yourself?

On top of that, the furniture would be the opposite of durable; in fact, it would be borderline flimsy.  It would be like opening a restaurant without waiters and asking customers to cook their own food.

But that model describes IKEA which has become a global brand and an immensely popular destination for shoppers.

Ikea is different.

Dr. Moon says brands that are different say yes to things that nobody else says yes to and no to things that nobody else before them said no to. They flip conventional wisdom on its head.

At first, many of these ideas seem crazy and or wrong. A social network limited to 140 characters? A car that is so small that it can fit inside an SUV? How about an internet portal with a lot of white space that offers nothing but search? No ads, no sports scores, no weather, no news. And by the way, what is a Google?

Often times, different brands focus on the negative characteristics of their products. Remember the first Mini ads…a bill board that said this: XL, X, M, S and Mini…smaller than small. The car, with no brand awareness in the states and a limited ad budget in a crowded field of trucks and SUVs sold like hot cakes.

As CEO of a hot sauce company (Tabanero) and as someone involved with a beverage brand (Celsius) –both ridiculously crowded categories– Dr. Moon provides both inspiration and a challenge: how to be different?

But it’s really more than a challenge isn’t it? It’s more of a mandate. It’s be different or fail.

And so I thought a lot about Dr. Moon’s theories and I’ve concluded hat her thinking is apropos for a whole lot of endeavors.

Lynn University gets “different”. Dr. Ross and his team have innovated with curriculum, campus design and technology and they’ve created value and an experience for students and faculty that is different and constantly improving.

Cities too have to be “different” or succumb to the mind numbing sameness of the 21st Century landscape.

Dr. Ross introduced me to Professor Moon and in our conversation he described Delray as a different kind of place, an innovative city. He’s right, of course.

And being “different” is a journey not a defined destination, you have to constantly iterate and evolve. You have to think and not allow success, fear, change or complacency stop you from being different.

Different stands out. Different create value. Different is what we are looking for.

 

 

 

New Urbanism Charter Still Inspires

First released in 1999, the New Urbanism charter has inspired hundreds of communities, including Delray and Boca's Mizner Park.

First released in 1999, the New Urbanism charter has inspired hundreds of communities, including Delray and Boca’s Mizner Park.

Note: The original Charter for the New Urbanism, published in book form in 1999, was a groundbreaking document aimed at reclaiming cities and towns from the destructive force of suburban sprawl. Thoroughly updated to cover the latest environmental, economic, and social implications of urban design, Charter of the New Urbanism, Second Edition features insightful writing from 62 authors on each of the Charter’s principles. Featuring new photos and illustrations, it is an invaluable resource for design professionals, developers, planners, elected officials, and citizen activists. Real-world case studies, plans, and examples are included throughout. For a copy visit www.cnu.org/charter. Some of the authors of the charter were on the panel that awarded Delray Beach the Nolen Award last year. I had the pleasure and the privilege of serving on the jury to award the 2015 winner.

The Congress for the New Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge.

We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy.

We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.

We recognize that physical solutions by themselves will not solve social and economic problems, but neither can economic vitality, community stability, and environmental health be sustained without a coherent and supportive physical framework.

We represent a broad-based citizenry, composed of public and private sector leaders, community activists, and multidisciplinary professionals. We are committed to reestablishing the relationship between the art of building and the making of community, through citizen-based participatory planning and design.

We dedicate ourselves to reclaiming our homes, blocks, streets, parks, neighborhoods, districts, towns, cities, regions, and environment.

 

We assert the following principles to guide public policy, development practice, urban planning, and design:
The region: Metropolis, city, and town The neighborhood, the district, and the corridor The block, the street, and the building
1) Metropolitan regions are finite places with geographic boundaries derived from topography, watersheds, coastlines, farmlands, regional parks, and river basins. The metropolis is made of multiple centers that are cities, towns, and villages, each with its own identifiable center and edges.
2) The metropolitan region is a fundamental economic unit of the contemporary world. Governmental cooperation, public policy, physical planning, and economic strategies must reflect this new reality.
3) The metropolis has a necessary and fragile relationship to its agrarian hinterland and natural landscapes. The relationship is environmental, economic, and cultural. Farmland and nature are as important to the metropolis as the garden is to the house.
4) Development patterns should not blur or eradicate the edges of the metropolis. Infill development within existing urban areas conserves environmental resources, economic investment, and social fabric, while reclaiming marginal and abandoned areas. Metropolitan regions should develop strategies to encourage such infill development over peripheral expansion.
5) Where appropriate, new development contigu- ous to urban boundaries should be organized as neighborhoods and districts, and be integrated with the existing urban pattern. Noncontiguous development should be organized as towns and villages with their own urban edges, and planned for a jobs/housing balance, not as bedroom suburbs.
6) The development and redevelopment of towns and cities should respect historical patterns, precedents, and boundaries.
7) Cities and towns should bring into proximity a broad spectrum of public and private uses to support a regional economy that benefits people of all incomes. Affordable housing should be distributed throughout the region to match job opportunities and to avoid concentrations of poverty.
8) The physical organization of the region should be supported by a framework of transportation alternatives. Transit, pedestrian, and bicycle systems should maximize access and mobility throughout the region while reducing dependence upon the automobile.
9) Revenues and resources can be shared more cooperatively among the municipalities and centers within regions to avoid destructive competition for tax base and to promote rational coordination of transportation, recreation, public services, housing, and community institutions.
10) The neighborhood, the district, and the corridor are the essential elements of development and redevelopment in the metropolis. They form identifiable areas that encourage citizens to take responsibility for their maintenance and evolution.
11) Neighborhoods should be compact, pedestrian friendly, and mixed-use. Districts generally emphasize a special single use, and should follow the principles of neighborhood design when possible. Corridors are regional connectors of neighborhoods and districts; they range from boulevards and rail lines to rivers and parkways.
12) Many activities of daily living should occur within walking distance, allowing independence to those who do not drive, especially the elderly and the young. Interconnected networks of streets should be designed to encourage walking, reduce the number and length of automobile trips, and conserve energy.
13) Within neighborhoods, a broad range of housing types and price levels can bring people of diverse ages, races, and incomes into daily interaction, strengthening the personal and civic bonds essential to an authentic community.
14 ) Transit corridors, when properly planned and coordinated, can help organize metropolitan structure and revitalize urban centers. In contrast, highway corridors should not displace investment from existing centers.
15) Appropriate building densities and land uses should be within walking distance of transit stops, permitting public transit to become a viable alternative to the automobile.
16) Concentrations of civic, institutional, and commercial activity should be embedded in neighborhoods and districts, not isolated in remote, single-use complexes. Schools should be sized and located to enable children to walk or bicycle to them.
17) The economic health and harmonious evolution of neighborhoods, districts, and corridors can be improved through graphic urban design codes that serve as predictable guides for change.
18) A range of parks, from tot-lots and village greens to ballfields and community gardens, should be distributed within neighborhoods. Conservation areas and open lands should be used to define and connect different neighbor- hoods and districts.
19) A primary task of all urban architecture and landscape design is the physical definition of streets and public spaces as places of shared use.
20) Individual architectural projects should be seamlessly linked to their surroundings. This issue transcends style.
21) The revitalization of urban places depends on safety and security. The design of streets and buildings should reinforce safe environments, but not at the expense of accessibility and openness.
22) In the contemporary metropolis, development must adequately accommodate automobiles. It should do so in ways that respect the pedestrian and the form of public space.
23) Streets and squares should be safe, comfort- able, and interesting to the pedestrian. Properly configured, they encourage walking and enable neighbors to know each other and protect their communities.
24) Architecture and landscape design should grow from local climate, topography, history, and building practice.
25) Civic buildings and public gathering places require important sites to reinforce community identity and the culture of democracy. They deserve distinctive form, because their role is different from that of other buildings and places that constitute the fabric of the city.
26) All buildings should provide their inhabitants with a clear sense of location, weather and time. Natural methods of heating and cooling can be more resource-efficient than mechanical systems.
27) Preservation and renewal of historic buildings, districts, and landscapes affirm the continuity and evolution of urban society.
Congress for the New Urbanism

Density, Design, Planning & Values

Greetings

Delray Beach is the first city to ever win the prestigious John C. Nolen Award which recognizes responsible, smart growth.

The award is a big deal.

We won because over a long period of time the public and private sectors worked together on a series of citizen led visions—namely Visions 2000 and the Downtown Master Plan. We had vision. We had passion. We had political will and we stayed focused on the big picture.

As a result, Delray Beach changed. Some people liked what happened. Some people hated it. But there’s little argument that the downtown went from sleepy to vibrant.

Personally,  I  think we have a great downtown.

Not a perfect downtown. Not a downtown devoid of problems or annoyances, but a downtown enjoyed by thousands; a downtown that has been a source of great civic pride.

But we didn’t celebrate when we won the Nolen Award. We should have, but we didn’t.

We should have taken the time to invite our residents, new and long time, to mark the occasion. We should have shown before and after pictures and explained the rationale behind the innovative strategies, policies, risks and investments that were made to transform Delray.

It was a teachable moment and a chance to thank people for their involvement in making it happen. But we passed. And that’s a shame because those civic pride moments are important if we are serious about building community.

The central business district in our village by the sea survived the worst recession since the Great Depression better than just about any other city you can name.

Sure, there was pain. But you could have stood on Atlantic Avenue at the height of the financial crisis and not known that there was a global meltdown occurring.

We didn’t have major vacancies. The streets were alive, the restaurants were full and property values didn’t plummet like they did in other cities. Downtown proved to be an enduring economic engine, providing needed jobs and tax revenues.

In fact, downtown sales increased 35 percent from $175 million in 2008 to $237 million in 2013, according to the Florida Department of Revenue.

“That is about three times more than the growth Palm Beach County saw, “reported the Sun-Sentinel.

Did this happen by accident? Did it happen because we planned poorly? Was it all, dumb luck?

Did nobody other than greedy developers benefit?

No.

No.

No.

And no.

It wasn’t an accident. It was planned and at every step along the way there was an opportunity for public input and debate.

The revitalization of Atlantic Avenue dates to 1984 when Mayor Doak Campbell convened the Atlantic Avenue Task Force because the State DOT, in its infinite wisdom, wanted to widen East Atlantic Avenue to speed hurricane evacuation.

If that had occurred, there would have been no downtown to save, take back, enjoy or savor.

We would have had a highway, not a main street.

Visions 2000 picked up where the Task Force left off and citizens got together and voted to tax themselves to beautify their town.

The Visions 2000 process led to the $21.5 million Decade of Excellence Bond issue, which passed overwhelmingly in 1989. Shortly thereafter, we saw an old school transformed into a cultural arts center and the addition of paver bricks, decorative lighting and landscaping. Thanks to the CRA that beautification extended to the Interstate over the years and to side streets as well.

With the public commitment to beautification and progress evident, the private sector started to invest. Some of these investors were merchants, some were homeowners, some were small business owners and some were developers. Many people made money, but more than a few didn’t. Even developers lose and when they lose, they tend to lose big.

Now I hear some people who ought to know better question how the public has benefitted from all of this….and I have to scratch my head because I think the value is self-evident and abundant. But if we must, here we go: we saw crime rates plummet, property values increase, jobs created and quality of life and place get better. All of these real and intrinsic benefits were a direct result of smart, responsible growth.

Yes there are impacts. There’s traffic and there’s noise and most of the time we can no longer pull right up to The Green Owl and find a space. Sometimes we have to walk a few yards, sometimes half a block. That’s Ok, because I’d rather have traffic, than no traffic. And I’d rather live in a town with a lively downtown than a dead one; I’ve lived in both and I prefer vibrancy. I don’t think I’m alone.

So yeah…there are benefits and impacts. I get it.  And I understand that there are people who miss the “old Delray”, but unless your colonial Williamsburg or Charleston, you can count on change happening. Even Charleston has hired new urbanist Andres Duany to help navigate development pressures. But if we can’t stop change, and we shouldn’t want to, can we manage it? I think we can and I think we have. We can also focus on some positives…there has to be things we aspire to have, not just prevent.

A friend of mine lives in the Lake Ida neighborhood.  He bought his house about 14 years ago for a little under $200,000. Today, he can get over a million dollars. Some homes in Lake Ida are selling for over $2 million. Not all are on the lake either. Lake Ida is a beautiful neighborhood but with all due respect to my friends in Lake Ida, if they lived adjacent to a dead main street I’m fairly certain their homes would be worth far less money.

Could it be that home values spiked because Lake Ida residents can take a golf cart and be in a rocking downtown in a few minutes?

Just taking a guess, but I would venture yes.

After the Decade of Excellence was successfully implemented, the CRA issued an RFP for block 77, a blighted section of downtown at Atlantic and First.

Worthing Place was awarded the bid and the town went bonkers; split between those who feared density and what they were sure would be a low grade “tenement” and those who thought that having residents living downtown would benefit mom and pop retailers and make the downtown a safer, more vibrant place.

I ran for office a year after the project was approved—six stories and 93 units to the acre and inherited a series of lawsuits filed by Tom Worrell, then owner of The Sundy House.

At that time, I had never met Mr. Worrell, even though I had worked for nearly a decade for one of his newspapers. I only met him when he introduced himself to me at a ribbon cutting on South Swinton.

I tried to broker an end to the suits—the developers were willing to chop off units and a floor or two, but we couldn’t quite get there, despite a long day of shuttle diplomacy with the parties parked in different rooms at Old School Square.

The city won the suits, but the developers missed the market and instead of being the first project out of the ground, they were among the last to build and only after they constructed the Federspiel Garage as they had promised to do.

I was shaken by the division I had seen over that project and it prompted me and others to create a process to create a downtown master plan and launch a communitywide conversation about what we wanted to see happen to our downtown.

Mayor Dave Schmidt– a terrific leader– enabled me to run with the process and I co-chaired the initiative along with Chuck Ridley, a neighborhood civic leader. Together, with hundreds and hundreds of residents, we redefined the downtown to include everything from A1 A to the Interstate. We felt it important– and yes historic– to include the West Atlantic corridor in our planning area.

I think the process was terrific. The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council did a remarkable job and the effort attracted hundreds to weigh in– so many that we had to shut the doors late at night at the temporary studios on Swinton to give the architects, planners and urban designers a chance to draw. We were amazed and gratified at how many people came out to talk about their ideas for their downtown. It was a citizen driven plan and it was a damn good one.

One of the enduring lessons that came from the process was that design mattered more than density. And that it was possible to change and keep our charm, a lesson we ought to be thinking about today. We learned not to fear density, but to see it as a tool for creating vibrancy and sustainability.

In fact, generating density downtown was a goal, because we felt we couldn’t have a safe or sustainable downtown without it.

Here’s an excerpt from the plan:

“In order to maintain the overall “Village Atmosphere” of the

City, but at the same time create enough density to encourage

a variety of local services and a more balanced mix of

retail in downtown, the Master Plan’s recommendation in all

the reviewed cases consistently supports higher densities

within the CRA’s downtown district, especially in the four

blocks north and south of the Avenue. It is this Plan’s additional

recommendation to include a minimum density

requirement in the zoning code. Within the downtown area,

low, suburban densities will cause more harm than slightly

higher ones. Within a downtown area, density is directly

associated with the health and success of downtown.”

Well…times have changed and I get that.

Strategies have to change as well. But certain fundamentals should never change.

Engaging the public and stakeholders should be sacrosanct. That’s what builds community. If we want to be ignored, we got Washington D.C. to blow us off –they’ve been ignoring us for years.

I want my commission to talk to people and get a range of opinion before they change something important.  Yes, I’ve heard the arguments, how the commission gets nothing but complaints about growth and development. I got them too. But I also heard and continue to hear from a great many people who love what happened downtown and would like to see more smart growth in strategic areas. I hear from entrepreneurs on a daily basis who would love to have their offices downtown and from others who wish they could afford to live downtown so they can walk or bike ride to services, restaurants, stores and cultural venues. I also hear from people who want jobs and students who would like to come home after college and work in Delray.

Sadly, many of these people don’t write commissioners and don’t speak up at the microphone at City Hall. They should.

But whether they show up or not, we have an obligation to consider their opinions and needs as well. I once cast a regrettable vote against a neighborhood plan when a group of irate people showed up at the last minute to protest. Mayor Schmidt glared at me and told me that the group didn’t represent the majority of the neighborhood. I should have known better but I didn’t make that mistake again. I resolved from that evening on to support good projects and vote against bad ones.

I think downtown is more art than science, so I like policies that enable commissioners to kill bad projects and make good deals happen, even if they need a little relief to make it work. We called it conditional use, which before it was wrongfully demonized, did a whole lot of good.

Conditional use killed a bad hotel project on A1A and it killed the first version of Atlantic Plaza. It also enabled City Walk and Ocean City Lofts to be built and the code allowed us to get the Seagate Hotel built.

I think those are nice projects, you may or may not agree.

But conditional use is not the same thing as a waiver or a variance. Waivers and variances were never granted for height and density. Never.

I think giving your policymakers discretion is a good thing. If they make mistakes—and they will—vote them out, especially if you think those mistakes were dishonest ones fueled by campaign contributions or favors. But making downtown codes prescriptive won’t give you better designs…and neither will lopping off floors. It will, however, stifle creativity.

Few people, even professionals, can tell the difference between a 54 foot building and a 60 foot building when they walk by.

So why care?

Well on Feb. 3,  there will be a first reading on new rules governing our downtown.

I see the downtown as easily Delray’s biggest, most unique asset; as valuable as the beach.

Lots of cities have beaches; there are very few Atlantic Avenues or Pineapple Groves.

As a recent lunch partner told me—“downtown is magic. It’s like The Beatles, it just feels good.”

Well, you don’t mess with The Beatles and you shouldn’t mess with the downtown either, not without a whole lot of analysis, input and dialogue.

Last week, I read the umpteenth version of the suggested changes…the ones on the city’s website don’t match what I saw on the Treasure Coast’s website. If you wonder if you missed the charrette to discuss these changes, don’t worry– there wasn’t a charrette to miss. The powers that be will tell you there was ample time to weigh in during commission meetings or presentations to the alphabet soup of boards we have in Delray. But in my opinion, this was not an inclusive planning process. Not even close. That’s a shame, because that’s part of our DNA.

Yes, we brought back Treasure Coast for this exercise and they have said on the record that they didn’t think our codes were broken. In fact, they take pride in Delray and they should. They nominated us for the Nolen Award because we were one of the few cities that stuck to our guns and had the political will to implement the people’s vision.

But the changes to the code that I see trouble me.

As mentioned, we skipped the master plan process; also known as public input.

I’m not sure we took the advice of Treasure Coast and I’m quite certain we ignored a lot of the advice of the experts that came to town to discuss density, design, parking, housing trends etc.

Treasure Coast put together a great speaker series, with the best thought leaders on the planet, coming to Delray. But I sure wish we had taken their advice and I wish this process included more input from the public because I don’t think that even the smartest elected officials have all the answers. In fact, I think the smartest elected officials understand that and then seek input and collaboration.

I don’t care whether our height limit is 60 feet or 54 feet. But I do think four stories will restrict our ability to get better designed projects and I think it will hinder, certainly not help office development, which we need desperately. To be honest, we are all guessing here, because there has not been any economic analysis performed, to my knowledge at least.

I don’t think putting a hard cap on density is smart public policy. I think there are strategic areas where you want to see density. I know saying “Delray is the incentive” is an applause line, but guess what, we may need incentives to get some things we desire. Incentives are tools that can be used to land good projects. The best public policy is aspirational and seeks to create something, not prevent it.

I think well designed projects trump density in importance, I think density gives you a chance for some level of affordability (giving young professionals an opportunity to live downtown) and I think it is better for the environment. I also think density gives independent retailers a chance at survival.

Stricter height limits on Atlantic Avenue make sense to me, but I think we should have created a transfer of development rights program, so that developers could have purchased those air rights to compensate property owners and maybe make the city a few bucks so we can pay our cops, firefighters and general employees.

My college economics class is a dusty memory, but it seems when you create scarcity one of two things can happen.

You either devalue property because you have new restrictions to abide by—which may concern an owner and should concern us as taxpayers since we rely on property taxes and higher valuations to pay for services– or you increase the values because now  you’ve  created scarcity.

Will we see commercial rents continue to climb as a result?

If so, will we lose the mom and pop retailer? We are already seeing the nationals come to town.

Will capping density forever hinder affordability downtown, robbing our CBD of young people who may want to live there before buying a single family home?

We needed an inclusive and deliberative process that allowed us to hash out where we are and where we want to go: we didn’t get one. We needed more study and analysis too.

We missed a chance to gather, talk, study and unify. That’s what towns pay Treasure Coast to do. It’s a worthy investment.

We paid for a form based code. But we didn’t get one.

A form based code, by its very definition, puts a premium on design not numbers. But we went right back to the numbers and we have tied the hands of future investors and policymakers.

I hear the arguments and I respect them. I truly do. This town has been damaged by some votes that left a tremendous stench. These changes will certainly disrupt those situations, but the cost is discretion and an ability to land a good project that may need some flexibility to work.

I witnessed a vote on a project in the southwest neighborhood that during my tenure we embraced because it was an opportunity to introduce middle class housing into a neighborhood that wanted it and needed it.  All across the country, cities were getting away from concentrating poverty. But when a subsequent commission approved a vastly different version of the project over the objections of citizens, staff, advisory boards, the CRA etc., I was literally nauseated. I got in my car and drove and drove and drove. I felt we had lost Delray Beach that night.

I understand wanting to stop that. I really do.

But I’m also concerned that future elected officials won’t have the discretion to make good projects happen.  And a hard cap on density, with no regard to use or design and no bonus program, is deeply problematic.

We’ve labeled our codes antiquated and our master plan dated—instead of appreciating that they built a pretty nice place and a whole lot of value.

If you tell people that you want to make something better; they are all ears. They’re in. But if you tell them that policies they took pride in were ruinous and that  you are here to save us, you begin to lose people who are proud of Delray.  Your “fix” begins to feel punitive and corrective.

We should ask Treasure Coast what they think of this process and its outcomes—give them diplomatic immunity and allow them to answer. Treasure Coast isn’t afraid of density, they know it’s all about design, use and urbanism. Bring back the experts we saw during the lecture series and see what they think. And next time we take a look at the rules—and there will be a next time– we should go back to the old way—citizen driven planning.

It works pretty well.  Just take a look around.

FAU Med School Gets Record Number of Admissions

 

FAU Med School soaring.

FAU Med School soaring.

Nearly four years since its inception, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at FAU has received a record-breaking 4,370 applications for 64 positions for the incoming class of 2015. The College also received 4,739 applications for 36 positions in the University’s first residency program in internal medicine. These numbers represent a 35 percent increase in medical school applications from last year, and a 22 percent increase in applications for the residency program from the previous year.

 

“The response we have received from prospective applicants to our medical school and internal medicine residency program is outstanding and truly speaks to the quality of our programs in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and our hospital partners in the FAU Graduate Medical Education Consortium,” said David J. Bjorkman, M.D., M.S.P.H., dean and executive director of medical affairs in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.

 

Demographics of the applicants for the M.D. program show that 52 percent are Florida residents (nearly half of these applicants are from South Florida) and 48 percent are from out-of-state. Fifty-four percent are male and 46 percent are female. Qualified students from groups currently underrepresented in medicine are included in the applicant pool—20 percent are Asian/Asian Indian; 16 percent are Hispanic; and 12 percent are African/American. The average Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is 33.5 with a GPA of 3.8.

 

“This has been a stellar year for our new medical school and we are delighted to have so many qualified candidates apply to our unique and personalized medical education program,” said Betty Monfort, assistant dean of admissions in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. “The high volume of applications we have received indicates that there is a great demand for a high-quality state medical school in this region.”

 

The first class of 36 residents in FAU’s internal medicine residency program began last June. Boca Raton Regional Hospital is the primary site for the program with participation from Bethesda Hospital East and Delray Medical Center, three of the five hospitals participating in the Graduate Medical Consortium (GME) supporting FAU residency programs. The other two participating hospitals in FAU’s GME Consortium are St. Mary’s Medical Center and West Boca Medical Center.

 

 

The Future is Here

Entrepreneurs have discovered Delray.

Entrepreneurs have discovered Delray.

I don’t believe in the status quo.

I’m not even sure it’s possible to stay in place even if you are determined to do so.

Change seems to be the rule of the universe and while sometimes it can be hard to embrace, it’s inevitable.

Time passes; things change.

I also don’t believe in the conventional wisdom when it comes to living the good life.

For many that means winning the lottery or cashing in big in business and living on a beach somewhere.

Seems pretty good in the abstract, but it doesn’t explain why:

  • Entrepreneurs begin yet another business even after cashing out big.
  • Humans seek constant mental, spiritual, and creative development.

People aspire, we are restless and we constantly seek knowledge and progress.

A pessimist would  view this as living in a permanent state of dissatisfaction. But an optimist celebrates the journey and sees the hammock on the beach as a rest stop, not a permanent destination.

I think people, organizations, schools and communities thrive when they have a sense of purpose; when they strive, envision, iterate and engage with the world.

Consequently, I think the same entities erode when they cling to the status quo.

Last week, I attended one of the most exciting events I’ve been to in a long, long time. It was called “Smart Uprising” and it was hosted by an immensely gifted young entrepreneur named Jeremy Office and his wonderful team at MacLendon Wealth Management right here in Delray Beach.

Jeremy is a financial professional with a sterling reputation; but he’s also an entrepreneur brimming with ideas, enthusiasm, warmth and vision. He’s an investor, community volunteer, VC, and deeply involved in our community with pursuits ranging from education to mentoring entrepreneurs.

The Uprising was staged at Honey, a smart, sophisticated new bar/lounge at 16 E. Atlantic Avenue. When you walk through the doors of Honey, the first thought you have is the bar has indeed been raised in Delray. (Pun intended).

The Smart Uprising event  is proof that Delray has reached a new level in its development.

The creative class is here and they are embracing Delray in a big, big way.

As I soaked in the event at Honey; listening to a brilliant young Goldman Sachs executive speak about market opportunities and my friend Nabyl Charania, co-founder and CEO of Rokk3r Labs,  discuss disruptive technologies I couldn’t help but feel energized and excited for the future.

I hung out at the event with John Ferber, a super guy and a world class entrepreneur who has  fallen hard for Delray; choosing our village to build more businesses and a life, with his lovely wife Jenna. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of marrying John and Jenna on the beach and was thrilled to see them put roots down in our city because I know that John and Jenna will create great things and provide opportunities and inspiration for others.

On the way out, I chatted with Jeremy’s colleague Kilburn Sherman who heads the Young Professionals Association of Delray. YPAD is a group to watch, they are not only focused on growing their businesses but on a new initiative called #BekindDelray which is encouraging kindness in our community; much needed at this time.

I also ran into the talented Ryan Boylston, who has a creative agency called Woo Creative and is a co-founder of The Pineapple Newspaper. He has an office on Atlantic Avenue that he is transforming into a hub for conversation and events.

I also spoke with some out-of-towners who marveled at Delray’s energy and vibe.

All this is not to say that we don’t have real and enduring problems and challenges to overcome. There’s still too much crime, vagrancy, drugs, poverty and lack of economic opportunity. We have educational challenges and neighborhood concerns to address. We are a diverse community and that is a real strength, but we are also segregated in so many ways.

We suffer from terrible political divisiveness and sometimes the level of our debate is debilitating and dare I say less than intellectual.

But…there is a youth movement in Delray and it’s not just chronological.  It’s a youthful mindset, one that embraces change, community and challenge.

Our host, Jeremy Office summed it up when he said he sensed a “brotherly love” taking hold in the business community; an ethos that embraces building relationships, trust and value.

There is a belief that problems can be solved; opportunities can and should be created and that there is a desperate need for leadership, entrepreneurship and community.

We can keep our charm and evolve. We can respect our heritage and history and still embrace change. We can welcome new people and ideas without fear and we can engage each other to solve some of our city’s pressing problems.

Delray 2.0 is here and it’s a good thing.