Prejudice Hurts

By now, you’ve probably read and watched countless stories and opinions about what happened over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Since we are a hyperlocal blog, we don’t typically comment on national news. But there is a sense that a line was crossed last weekend and that we have arrived at a cultural moment in which change may be possible. Does it wake us up? Or do we let it slide?

Positive change is never certain and if it comes it probably won’t be overnight, but positive change is possible and I hope we as a nation seize it. We’ve missed other opportunities.

Sandy Hook was a moment that many thought would forever change the debate over gun control and lead to changes–it didn’t happen.

Maybe, Charlottesville will be different. Maybe it will focus us on the dangers posed by hate groups, the evils of racism and the ugliness of anti-Semitism.

Or maybe in a few days, it will become a faint memory and we will go about our lives–until the next flashpoint. And there’s always another flashpoint.

America has been divided and subdivided into so many groups and subgroups that we are losing focus on what unifies us.

Often these groups don’t talk to each other or if they do, they talk past each other in loud voices meant to demean and diminish.

I have long felt that Washington is broken, unable to solve problems or seize opportunities. That’s not a profound conclusion.

When you think about it, it’s amazing how great a place America still is considering the dysfunction of our politics. Can you imagine how much better we could be if our government and its leaders were average instead of abysmal?

And make no mistake, they are abysmal.

Congress can’t craft a budget—which is their  responsibility. They can’t address infrastructure, immigration, education, taxes or health care. Their constant brinksmanship on the debt ceiling—which they never address—will cost taxpayers $2.5 billion this year when they finally vote to increase it, once they get done bloviating on C-Span.

And it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, liberal, moderate or conservative—nobody seems capable of governing which in my definition requires that you get things done and solve problems.

So this isn’t a partisan rant. I think both parties have failed this country. And I think that is what has stoked a whole lot of anger and frustration. And this week, we are reminded that for some anger and frustration turns to hatred and so they look for scapegoats. Hatred never solved anything, but it sure is dangerous and repulsive too.

So I am beginning to believe that any hope for meaningful change will start in our nation’s towns and cities.

Want better race relations? Get to work on it in your town and city.

Want to create housing and job opportunities? Elect local officials who understand how to encourage the private sector to invest, or at least those who won’t chase away jobs and development that makes sense.

Want safer streets? Invest in public safety.

And on and on it goes.

Of course, it would be great if the federal government provided some resources. After all, we do pay taxes.

So help on the opioid crisis would be nice. Check that, it’s essential.

But you get the picture.

Local is where it’s at–for most things.

Cities, counties and states can serve as laboratories for innovation, but only if ‘we the people’ get involved and stay involved and unite as Americans.

Personally, I was repulsed by the images from Charlottesville. It’s a beautiful city—the hometown of Jefferson, the architect of our Bill of Rights. I took a course many years ago at the University Of Virginia Darden School Of Business and I thought: “wow, I can live here.” You felt Jefferson in that city— so to see the images of violence and hear the stupid chants was nauseating.

Nazi’s and white supremacists walking in the streets spewing hate ought to be a wakeup call for Americans.

As Heather Heyer wrote in her final Facebook post before losing her life protesting hate: “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

She was right…

 

 

 

The 8 Pillars of Trust

I recently read a book called the “The Trust Edge” which explains how you and your organization can earn trust.

Author David Horsager contends that a lack of trust is your biggest expense because it is the currency of business and life.

I agree.

Mr. Horsager defines trust as a confident belief in someone or something to do what is right, deliver what is promised, and to be the same every time in spite of circumstances.

Horsager identifies twelve barriers to trust: conflict of interest, threat of litigation, lack of loyalty, increasing examples of others untrustworthiness, threat of exposure, lack of control over technology, fear of the unknown, negative experiences, individualism, differences between people, desire for instant gratification, and a focus on the negative.

To overcome the barriers, Horsager offers eight “pillars of trust.”

The eight pillars all take time and there no quick fixes for any trust issue.

Here’s a deeper dive. We think you’ll find lots of wisdom in the list.

Clarity. Clarity starts with honesty. People trust the clear and distrust the vague. Communicate clearly and frequently.

Compassion. Think beyond yourself. There are four keys ways we show we care: listen, show appreciation, be engaged, and serve others.

Character. Have high morals and be consistent in your thoughts, words, and actions. Always ask, “Am I doing the right thing?”

Competency. Humility is the first step in learning. Create a regular plan for staying competent and capable.

Commitment. Great leadership demands sacrifice. The people who stick with you when things are tough are the ones you can really trust.

Connection. Trust is about relationships. In every interaction we increase or decrease trust. Be genuine, and be grateful.

Contribution. You must deliver results to be trusted. Give attention, resources, time, opportunity, and help.

Consistency. Probably the most important pillar of all as it gives meaning to all of the other pillars. You will never get one big chance to be trusted in your life; you will get thousands of small ones. Just one inconsistency can change people’s perspective.

We’d thought we share these pillars as a useful guide to your personal and business relationships. When elected officials, CEO’s, companies and governing bodies fall short–my guess is it’s because they are failing on one of more of the above pillars.

We believe that leaders given the public’s trust should abide by these pillars. All eight of them.

Do they?

Q: What’s A Park? A: Everything.


We’re just back from a long weekend in New York City.
We stayed in the landmark Essex House on Central Park South and found ourselves spending a great deal of time in the 840 plus acre park.
The weather was glorious and the park was alive with dogs, children and people of all ages.
It seems like every time you venture into the park you discover something different and interesting.
The park is clean and you feel safe, a marked departure from when I grew up when popular culture and the news warned you about the perils of the place. That New York, which included a seedy Times Square, dangerous subways and Guardian Angels, seems like a distant memory.
Much has changed about New York some of it good, some of it not so good.
Inequality and gentrification are front burner issues and so are the losses of landmark businesses chronicled in the great blog “Vanishing NY” which is now a book on my must read list.
But a few things remain true to the Big Apple. The city still pulses with culture, energy and art. And its parks, particularly Central Park remain extremely important to the city’s soul.
Great parks enhance cities immeasurably and Central Park in New York and Millennial Park in Chicago are perhaps the two best examples of that theory.
When I was on the City Commission in the early 2000s we endeavored to enhance Delray’s parks authorizing a parks master plan that ultimately led to a parks bond.
One of my colleagues on the commission felt that our parks lagged other cities and that we were too much about ‘swings and slides’ and not enough about creating memorable spaces that would attract people to use our open spaces.
As was the style of the time, we consulted with the community and crafted a spending plan to address what we were hearing from parents, kids, seniors and other stakeholders.
Out of those efforts came the idea to create a large “Central” park at Old School Square replacing a surface parking lot with a mixed use garage and creating more open space near the center of our downtown.
Twelve years later that vision remains an unfinished goal. We have the open space, the amphitheater and garage (and the Arts Garage), but we envisioned more. Much more. The time has come to finally seize that opportunity.
A years long visioning exercise by the public is complete and I sure hope the powers that be fund the plan. It will be an important investment and will create enormous value.
Parks are hugely important statements that cities make.
They are critical investments that yield returns both tangible and intangible.
Similarly, failure to invest in open space  also makes a statement–not a good one.
As we watched kids wandering the zoo, dogs jumping in a fountain and couples walking hand in hand through Central Park I turned to my walking partner–who also happens to be my life partner –and said: “if I lived here I’d be in this park everyday.”
And that’s the key to a great public space: places where you can enjoy peace and quiet, spots to picnic, places to write, paint and read and places to exercise and celebrate (festivals). And yes, spots where you can take your dog. Places you want to be every day.

The Mapmakers

 

“In politics you have to know how to read the ground, the real topography. You can’t just go by the work of past mapmakers. You have to see clearly what’s there now.” Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan is one of my favorite writers.
While we are on different ends of the political spectrum, I always learn something from reading Peggy Noonan and I do–every week. I never miss a column.
The above quote is just one example of her brilliance. There’s usually one or two lines in every column that just stick with you and make you think.
Noonan’s advice to politicians is smart advice. It’s important for policy makers to hit the streets and talk to a wide range of people. You can’t rely solely on gurus and handlers.
But the people with experience have their place and the smart policy maker would be wise to consult with those who have traveled the road before them as well.
But you have to be open to new ideas and realities. You have to see clearly what’s there now and lead accordingly.
Still, there are some things are foundational. Some things that don’t change. Some parts of the map that must remain unaltered.
On a national level,foundational American values include: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the notion that America strives to be a beacon of freedom for the world.
But cities have foundational values too.
Delray Beach was built on the values of citizen engagement, citizen driven visioning, collaboration, public private partnerships, an embrace of important non-profits, a respect for history and the notion that City Hall was a friend, beacon and supporter of people and organizations that aspire.
The topography may change, but if those values are lost we lose our identity. We lose who we are.
Delray was also blessed with some amazing mapmakers –to borrow a word from Ms. Noonan.
Leaders who read the topography beautifully and navigated through some strong seas to create a city that people love–warts and all.
Some of those mapmakers worked at City Hall, some at the CRA, some at the DDA, some at the Chamber of Commerce and some served as mayor’s and commissioners. Many were volunteers serving on boards and committees. Others built amazing non profits such as the Achievement Center and Old School Square. Some ran landmark businesses and found the time to start organizations or serve existing ones.
They both created and relied on the foundational values mentioned above.
They needed to know that if they attended a visioning retreat that their time would be well spent. They needed to know that their service would be respected even if they didn’t always get their way. And they needed to know that what they were building had a shot at lasting.
Not a guarantee- a shot.
The most precious and valuable commodity is time. Once it’s spent you can’t get it back. You can blow money and make more of it. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. If you waste time it’s gone–forever.
And so volunteers need to know that when they roll up their sleeves to serve that their time is well spent.
I’m keeping a close on the city’s budget discussions.
A city’s budget should reflect its goals and values.
Several key non profits including Old School Square, the Achievement Center for Children and Families and the Delray Beach Historical Society are concerned about losing their funding.
Not every city funds non profits but Delray was different. The mapmakers saw value in preserving history, supporting a non profit that looked after our most vulnerable and at risk families and creating a cultural arts center that serves as a gathering place for the community.
We are a rare city that has its own library. Decades of leadership saw value in having our very own library and the commission I served on thought it was important to move that library to new and larger space in a part of the community that would benefit greatly from having a good library in close proximity.
The list goes on.
Great cities have values. We should know them, respect them, always embrace change but also always respect the map. It’s our true north.

 

Here’s To The Teachers

Geoffrey Canada

I had always wanted to see Geoffrey Canada speak.

We tried to get him to come to Delray Beach many years ago, but for some reason we were unable to pull it off.

Canada is a legendary educator and community builder who did some miraculous work running the Harlem Children’s Zone until his recent retirement. He continues to speak around the country and we caught him recently at The Breakers in Palm Beach where he spoke to the annual meeting of Leadership Florida.

He’s a riveting speaker. Riveting with a capital R.

And his message is powerful and built on a lifetime of experience. It’s also timely with our children heading back to school in a few weeks.

While there were many lessons packed into his presentation my two takeaways were this:

  • We completely disrespect the education profession in this country and;
  • Where you grow up and how you grow up matters—a lot.

Canada who grew up in the South Bronx was a bright student who went to Bowdoin College in Maine in the 1960s.

Back home, he saw the plague of heroin stealing young lives (sound familiar) and so out of curiosity he took two science classes his last year of school: pharmacology and physiology.

He wanted to figure out what it was about heroin that made the drug so addictive and deadly.

He aced both classes and a group of professors intervened in his career path and urged him to go to medical school.

“But I want to be a teacher,” he told them believing that education was the best way to lift a community and break the cycle of poverty.

“No you don’t,” they answered trotting out the usual reasons: you won’t make money, you won’t be able to drive a nice car and you won’t be invited to all the cool cocktail parties.

It was a full court press and his professors talked him into going to medical school which was where he was heading right up until he had to sign a commitment letter and he decided that he just “didn’t like sick people.”

So he escaped medical school and instead launched a career that has touched the lives of thousands of kids.  An astounding 97 percent of children enrolled in the Harlem Children’s Zone program go onto college—all of this in a community in which poverty, crime, drugs and despair are deeply rooted.

The Harlem Children’s Zone is changing the trajectory of that universe. That’s what great leaders do.

They change lives.

But the point was well taken. Every effort was made– by educators no less—to dissuade young Geoffrey from what would become a brilliant and important career.

Based on his 40 plus years of experience, Canada believes that education needs an infusion of talent to lift the fortunes of American students.

“When we think talent, we think Google, Facebook, Netflix,” he said. “We don’t think of the local elementary school in Fort Lauderdale.”

But we should. We need bright young minds to go into the field. Canada believes that education is beyond a full time pursuit, it requires immense dedication, talent and resources.

“We pay teachers part-time wages,” he argues. “And we entrust the future of our nation to them. In business, there is an intense struggle for talent. In education, we’re not competing for talent and we need to be.” That was not a knock on the quality of teachers, but rather a call to arms. Educators should not have to take a pledge of poverty in order to teach our children.

As the father of a young ESE (Exceptional Student Education) teacher who loves her students and goes above and beyond that argument resonates with me. I simply don’t know how teachers can live in Palm Beach County given the high cost of housing these days.

The second point is that place matters.

“The place you’re in is either going to help you succeed or be a barrier,” he said. “It’s hard for a child in the fourth grade who has to go home to parents addicted to drugs, living in chaos. He or she won’t be able to compete with a child coming home to loving parents.”

Unless….

Unless we start to think deeply about how we are going to make the child successful.

The brilliance of the Harlem Children’s Zone is its holistic approach.

“We start at birth,” he told Leadership Florida. “With baby college which is for newborns to three year olds. And we stay with them through college.”

That’s a big and expensive commitment—financially and emotionally. But it works. It gets results, especially when you introduce remarkable teachers into the equation.

“The message is we are going to do whatever it takes,” he said. “This is the deep end of the pool. In the beginning, the data is going to be bad. We have to get comfortable with that. And know, that over time, we will move it..slowly.”

On August 14, our kids will be heading back to school.

When you take a look at the educational landscape in Southern Palm Beach County you see lots of bright spots and lots of areas of concern.

The state recently released school grades for 2017.

More than half of District operated schools earned A’s and B’s overall and 30 schools operated by the School District of Palm Beach County improved by at least one letter grade. A total of 63 District-operated schools earned A’s from the state and 35 schools earned B’s, which equals 61 percent of traditional schools in Palm Beach County. No District-operated school received an F in 2016-17, and only eight District-operated schools received a D.

Twelve District-operated schools improved from a B to an A, including the following schools in Boca Raton and Delray Beach:

  • Banyan Creek Elementary School
  • Boca Raton Community Middle School
  • Hammock Pointe Elementary School
  • Olympic Heights Community High School
  • Sandpiper Shores Elementary School

But we all know we have lots of work to do.

Locally, we are fortunate to have Delray Students First, the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, magnet programs, career academies, the Golden Bell Foundation, the Delray Education Foundation, the Achievement Center, the Milagro Center, Florence Fuller Center and more.

I’ve always felt that the Village Academy and a concept called “Village Center” had enormous potential to employ the Canada Harlem Children’s Zone model.

But it takes money. It takes leadership. It takes vision and it takes a long term commitment.

In other words, it takes a village.

We say we are one, but it’s not about the size of buildings or whether we get a Publix—(for the record I like our scale and I want to see a Publix on West Atlantic) it’s about the size of our collective hearts.

Some Internet trolls love to sit back and bash and pontificate about what they don’t want to see.

I get it. And that’s cool—to a point.

But I often wonder if that same energy was channeled into thinking about the future rather than fighting the latest outrage if we might actually get somewhere again—as a community and as a nation.

I see a lot of loud people who are comfortable with their lot in lives paying lip service to kids but barely lifting a finger. I see others who have placed their comfort and personal convenience over the needs of future generations. What do our kids need?

They need attainable housing. They need good jobs. And we need to nurture our entrepreneurs and have a strategy to both attract and retain talent.

Place matters and that could be our competitive edge.

We’re walkable. We’re cool. We have amenities. We have art and culture. We have great restaurants and a wonderful beach. We have great weather and recreational opportunities.

Sure, we have problems. But you don’t solve your problems by driving down your positives. You solve your problems, you meet your challenges, through collaboration, investment and a can-do mindset.

Frankly, I’m seeing the opposite from our so-called “leaders.”

We have some deep end of the pool issues in Delray these days. It’s not the first time we’ve had them.

Last time, the community said “let’s work together.” Three words=profound results.

And it sure beats “divide and conquer.”

It’s our choice. Which path do we choose?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Not Going to Change

I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.” — Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

 
I’m not quite sure I’m a fan of Jeff Bezos.
But I sure do respect him.
He knows how to scale a business and disrupt industries as well as or better than anyone.
Just ask Walmart or any legacy retailer, bookseller or even cloud storage companies. 
I’ve been thinking about Amazon lately and what it’s impact and the impact of ecommerce may mean for cities and real estate.  But that post is for another day. 
The quote above made me think about something else. I think Bezos is right.  And while entrepreneurs always seek to skate where the puck is heading, the quote is also relevant to cities. 
A loud and active group of people seem to lament change in cities and I get it, we don’t want to lose the soul of our communities but change is inevitable and so the discussion should focus on how to best manage and steer the inevitable.
But what about thinking about what won’t change? What will still be needed in 10 years and beyond?
There are –as Bezos instructs –opportunities in what won’t be going away.
 
As much as we love Delivery Dudes we probably will still want to visit a great restaurant because it’s not just about the food it’s about the experience and the ambience. 
As much as we “stream” we may still want to see a great movie on a big screen with other people. We still may value “date night” or a matinee as I did the past two weekends when we went to see “The Big Sick” and “Baby Driver “at Cinemark. 
I love Netflix, but when I’m home I’m distracted. When I’m in a theater I focus and I end up enjoying the movie that much more–provided I don’t nap. 
Ipic is banking on that experience to endure as they build a new theater in Delray. 
I grew up the son of a retailer. My dad owned a retail pharmacy in Smithtown, N.Y., a business model that was disrupted by the likes of Walgreens and CVS. 
Now there are rumblings of Amazon going into the prescription delivery space. It will have an impact I’m sure. But as I watch an independent pharmacy being built on US 1 in Delray which will include an old-fashioned counter and other elements of retro drug stores I wonder if maybe we will leave room for authentic, old fashioned experiences like my dad’s old store. 
Yes AirBNB is all the rage but I think hotels will be around in 10 years. Maybe not the generic kind, but cool independents and boutique brands like Aloft that embrace local aesthetics will make it as will the incredible Crane’s Beach House which offers service, intimacy and strong ties to the local community. 
Big box retail and malls will be severely challenged but independent stores or highly curated chains with unique products and superior services and experiences should find room to survive and thrive. 
Food stores are changing too. 
A news story last week reported on a landmark study that showed consumers shopping for different items in different places. They may grab some items in a local farmers market, buy paper goods at a big box, shop for prepared meals at a local market and hit up a dollar store for staples. The 60,000 item supermarket may find itself struggling or having to reinvent.
So while we should cheer the CRA’s and WARC’s pursuit of a long coveted Publix for West Atlantic we should also recognize that our Green Market, local gardens, ethnic food stores and food halls have a place in our communities. Today’s consumer seems to crave options, authenticity, experience, ambience and value over generic mass. One wonders whether local retailers may mount a comeback: remember when Burdine’s was the Florida store? They didn’t stock sweaters in September because Burdine’s served the Sunshine State not a mass national market?
One of the bigger questions related to what will remain has to do with the future of the car.
Will it remain the same as today? My guess is no. 
There’s too much money being bet by major companies to think that the auto culture won’t be disrupted. 
When autonomous vehicles arrive, it will become the single greatest real estate opportunity of our lifetimes. With so much land and infrastructure given over to the car—i.e. seas of parking lots, garages, lanes and lanes of heat trapping asphalt–think of the opportunity to reinvent cities.
 No, transportation won’t be same. But my guess is the need for people to gather and experience together won’t change–providing great opportunities for cultural institutions, parks, recreation, restaurants and I hope old fashioned town hall democracy to thrive. 
The more technology engulfs our life the more we may crave human interaction and experience; which is the beauty of cities.
Cities are one “invention” that may change but I think they will endure and become more important than ever. 
I sure hope so. 

Creative Mornings Rock

Creative Mornings Palm Beach celebrates the selfie. I’m being blocked here by Connor Lynch, who is taller than LeBron.

Oh my goodness, where do you start when you write about Creative Mornings?
Is it the energy of 150 creatives at 8:30 am that makes you feel like the people in the room can transform the world?
Is it the inclusiveness that welcomes all and does not charge admission?
Is it the empowering message of the speakers and hosts?
What about the manifesto which says Creative Mornings are for people who give a damn?
It’s all of those things. And more. Much more.
I’m hooked.
And that’s a good thing because I have less than a month to piece together a talk for the next Creative Morning. After attending the most recent event and viewing several past talks, I have my work cut out for me.  #uhoh.
But enough about my troubles. This is a supportive group, so I’m sure they’ll grade on a curve and give me a pass.
Let’s talk about how cool Creative Mornings Palm Beach is and why convening creatives is hugely important.
Creative Mornings is an international movement with chapters in over 160 cities including five in Florida.
The concept is brilliantly designed and simple: gather for 90 minutes once a month and become part of a community of creative entrepreneurs whose brilliance and positivity will inspire you to new heights personally and professionally.
Alexa Rose Carlin was the speaker at last week’s gathering hosted at TK Academy in Boca Raton, an exciting new coding school. She was in a word: amazing.
Her message addressing inequality touched on themes of empowerment, positivity and gratitude.

At age 25, Alexa is already a national figure hosting national conferences and speaking to major corporations.
She electrified and inspired the crowd. It was amazing to experience.
It seems like these days we wallow in so much soul draining negativity and bile that it’s sometimes hard to trudge out of the house; or to turn on the TV or read the news.
A visit to Creative Mornings reminds you that there are people in our world who are trying to create and innovate. They are busy serving, building, dreaming, doing and aspiring.
I found it to be life affirming and comforting
On August 18 at Delray’s Arts Garage I will attempt to add to the community they have built. But more than anything I will let them know that their work is important and I will say thank you; because we need creativity and positivity now more than ever.

Editor’s note: Last week, our community lost a friend when Skip Sheffield passed unexpectedly. I worked with Skip on two separate occasions at The Boca News and at Atlantic Ave magazine. He was a wonderful man, a terrific musician and a great writer. His arts and music journalism won’t be forgotten and he was a walking encyclopedia of community knowledge. I enjoyed our friendship and loved working with him. The loss was stunning to those of us who knew, loved and respected Skip. He won’t be forgotten and he will be deeply missed. Our prayers are with the Sheffield family during this difficult time.

Things that Work Edition

It’s time for some positivity.
Social media and conventional media are full of bad news these days.
It’s time to take a look at what’s working.
Fortunately, this is by no means a complete list. And please send me some suggestions for future posts, we’d love to spotlight the good in our community.

Delray Beach Initiative –think of this group of committed citizens as a SWAT team for good. Essentially they go where they are needed helping local schools and non profits by raising funds and awareness. Over the weekend, they hosted “Delray’s Got Talent” at the Elks Club which in addition to being a lot of fun raised funds for the Miracle League, a non-profit that works too. To get involved or learn more visit http://delraybeachinitiative.com/

The Delray Beach Historical Society–under the leadership of Winnie Edwards, the Historical Society has new energy and life with lots of activities, exhibits and projects. They have a robust social media presence and have activated their home at the historic Cason Cottage. I like how the Historical Society is conducting interviews with residents who have insights into local history. I’ve longed felt we have neglected to capture the stories of our pioneers and key contributors so future generations may learn about their hometown. To learn more and get involved visit http://www.delraybeachhistory.org/

Boca Economic Development–Jessica Del Vecchio is a force of nature promoting job growth and corporate achievement in Boca Raton. Is there are a lot to talk about? Oh yes. But there’s also a whole lot to admire about how the City of Boca is messaging its successes. The Economic Development office fosters pride by spotlighting the contributions and achievements of local companies and touting the city as a great place to invest and run a business. Here’s a link to the office https://www.myboca.us/470/Economic-Development  

FAU Research Park–Park leader Andrew Duffel is an economic development rock star who was recently recognized for his stellar work. The Park has become a job engine for the region and the home of a lot of innovation. Bravo! The Research Park’s website is a cornucopia of great information that will get you informed and excited about the future of tech innovation in our backyard.

https://www.research-park.org/

The Arts Garage–since taking the helm, Marjorie Waldo has steadied the ship, engaged the community and continued the great programming. Yes! If you haven’t been to the Arts Garage, make sure to catch a show, you won’t regret it. The venue is intimate and easily accessible.  There’s a lot of ways to get involved visit http://artsgarage.org/ to learn how.

Old School Square–President Rob Steele and Board Chair Bill Branning have gotten the tour of political dysfunction in Delray but through it all have managed to stay positive and focused on the big picture which is and has always been serving as a cultural catalyst and community gathering spot. Rob’s ability to reach out to key community partners is refreshing. Bill’s strength as a leader is inspiring. http://oldschoolsquare.org/

Anthony’s Cold Fire Pizza–you can always count on Pedro Andrade, Anthony’s manager in Delray to step up to help the community. Aside from serving amazing wings and ridiculously good pizza, Anthony’s is a great corporate citizen.
There’s more. A whole lot more.
So much to be thankful for in your Delray Boca.

Housing For Young People Needed

Delray’s Community Land Trust is an innovative organization supported by the Delray CRA and others.

The headline was a grabber: Are You a Millennial Looking to Buy a Home? It Could Take Up to 32 Years.

Only 32% of the country’s largest generation (which consists of 75 million Americans) own homes. Those that do are flocking to interior markets, which tend to be cheaper and more cost-effective than most coastal markets. In our neck of the woods, that might mean the western fringes which creates sprawl and traffic as workers head east for jobs. But even out west, higher end homes seem to be the order of the day and many of the communities cater to the 55 and over crowd. Redfin recently reported that the 33446 area code (west of Delray)  is pacing the nation in price appreciation.

 

As the front line of millennials enter their mid-30s, financial security is not guaranteed. Instead, the generation is beleaguered with student loan debt (which exceeds car and credit card debt) and salaries that are 20% lower than what their baby boomer parents earned at the same age, according to a report by real estate research site Abodo.

 

The average net worth of a millennial is $10,090, or 56% less than what it was for baby boomers at the same point in life, according to Federal Reserve data.

 

Coupled with rising home prices, it could take decades for a millennial to be able to afford a down payment on a house in places like San Diego or San Francisco. This may be why more millennials live with their parents than any other generation in the last 130 years, according to Bisnow Media.

Millennials living in the country’s biggest cities, including New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles are especially challenged.

 

The average millennial makes $40,500 per year. Using that average, were one to save 15% of her income each year, it would take just over 18 years to save enough for a 20% down payment on a home in Boston. It would take 32 years for a millennial to afford the average $112,000 down payment for a home in Los Angeles. And as the father of a few millennials who are gainfully employed (thank goodness) I have a hard time believing that even the most frugal and disciplined young person can save 15% of their income.

The picture in South Florida is not much different than some of the aforementioned hyper expensive markets.

I remember moving here when I was 22 and thinking that relative to New York and the Northeast, Florida was very affordable. My car insurance was lower, home prices were reasonable, there was no income tax and property taxes were much lower than my native Long Island. Even homeowners insurance was nominal at first—before changing after Hurricane Andrew.

Still, according to researchers at Abodo, Florida as a state remains much more affordable than other parts of the United States. It would take 5-10 years for millennials to save up.

Hence, the desire for developers to build apartments and the willingness of underwriters to finance deals. However, finding sites in built-out and expensive Boca and Delray is challenging. With land prices soaring, rental rents are also rising and the uncertain regulatory environment (costly, lengthy and torturous entitlement processes, toxic politics, NIMBYism and an aversion to density) make it even harder for millennials to strike out on their own.

Another headline in USA Today recently also grabbed me: Where Did All The Starter Homes Go?

The article cited a byzantine maze of zoning, environmental, safety and other requirements that has led to a 35% decrease in housing construction across the country from previous levels. According to economists cited by USA Today, the lack of supply has driven up home prices by 40% over the past five years.

Single family home construction suffers from a lack of available land and a lack of skilled construction workers, according to the National Association of Realtors. Banks are also tougher on borrowers as a result of the housing crash in 2008.

The perfect storm has led the National Association of Home Builders to sound the alarm. The NAHB says that from 2011 to 2016, regulatory costs to build the average house has increased from about $65,000 to $85,000 and now represent 25% of the cost of a home.

Of course, we need regulations as long as they are necessary, fairly priced and serve a public purpose.

Still, the inability of millennials to gain a foothold in our community should be pressing concern for public and private sector leaders.

It’s important for companies to be able to recruit workers in order for the economy to grow. Workers, young families, entrepreneurs and established companies look at housing prices, quality of life, quality of schools and cultural amenities before making a decision on where to put down roots.

Unfortunately, the word density has taken on a bad meaning. But, truth be told, density done well (i.e. properly designed for great buildings and public spaces) is essential for cities such as Boca Raton and Delray Beach. Compact and walkable development is better for the environment than traffic producing sprawl which serves the needs of cars over people. It also allows for young people to form households and become part of the community injecting needed ideas, life, energy, monies and volunteer hours which make cities work.

The recent changes to Delray’s land development regulations for the downtown core which capped density at 30 units to the acre, was a big mistake. It virtually guarantees that millennials—who seek walkable environments and don’t want to be car dependent—can’t live downtown. By limiting the supply, you jack up prices and we end up with an eastern core that’s shut off to all but the very wealthy.

The 2001 Downtown Master Plan, which did much to build on the 1990s Decade of Excellence, was a community wide education effort that encouraged well-designed projects versus a fixation on density numbers. We saw visual examples of ugly low density housing and also saw attractive higher density projects which have the added benefit of increasing your tax base while also adding residents who can support local businesses. That was the guiding rationale behind the push to add downtown housing. We wanted a sustainable, year-round downtown.

The other areas that make sense to add attainable housing for millennials and others is North and South Federal Highway, Congress Avenue and the “four corners” of Atlantic and Military, which has zoning allowing for a mix of uses. The four corners zoning—done over a decade ago—will become increasingly important as we see pressure on the retail landscape increase with big box chain stores being driven out of business by ecommerce.

Delray is ready to offer shopping center developers more options for their properties should they decide to invest and change course.

The best incentives are not monetary—which almost always leads to an arms race you can’t win with companies taking the money until a better offer comes along. Rather, the best incentives are zoning, a tough but fair and timely approval process that emphasizes design and good uses and enough density to give the next generation a chance to access your city.

We were always ahead of the curve—which is why Delray succeeded. It’s important we stay there or we will be left behind. Right now, we’re losing ground.

A Return To Bay Street

Greetings from The Bahamas.
About a dozen years ago, I was part of a small group that got invited to The Bahamas to meet business and political leaders looking to improve downtown Nassau.
I was thinking about that trip and a follow up visit by Bahamian officials to Delray this week as I returned to Paradise Island and made a trip to Bay Street.
U.S. Ambassador Ned Siegel asked former Mayor Tom Lynch and I to visit and talk about what we learned from the revitalization of downtown Delray Beach. We were joined by Boca Chamber President Troy McLellan and Kelly Smallridge, the president of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.
It was a memorable trip. And thanks to Ned, we met a who’s who in the Bahamian business world and government.
What struck us was the lack of local government so that the “little things” that mean so much –stuff like potholes and traffic flow –were left to the national government to deal with.
One of the issues at the time for Bay Street business leaders was the magnetic pull of cruise passengers and tourists to Atlantis, the massive resort that kind of has it all from magnificent pools and restaurants, to stores, aquariums and of course a casino.
We were asked to make some recommendations and we did and we later hosted a delegation in Delray, Boca and Palm Beach County.
I’m still in touch with a few of the Bahamians from that trip, mostly on social media.
So it was interesting to go back and ask as many people as I could how downtown was doing.
Of course, when you ask you get the gamut of responses: Bay Street was “thriving”, “struggling”, doing “awesome” and “so-so.”
When we were there we saw four cruise ships and the streets and stores were busy.
Side streets looked the same as a dozen years ago–still in need of some TLC. And parts of Bay Street were doing well and parts were marked by empty stores and blight.
So it goes…but it’s a beautiful place, with nice people, vibrant color, tropical weather, good food and happy music. And the residents…they love it here. Lots and lots of pride.
One thing was notable. Everywhere we went, people seemed to still know and miss Ambassador Siegel. That’s pretty cool. He left a mark here.
I hope he knows that.