Delray Beach and Boca Raton Real Estate and Homes for Sale

Watch as Jeff and Dave, the founders of YourDelrayBoca.com, give you their take on the local real estate market:

There is no more dynamic real estate market in the U.S. than Boca-Delray.

From oceanfront mansions and historic homes to picturesque country clubs and subdivisions the market is vibrant, the choices are endless and the neighborhoods varied depending on age range, price and taste. The area features everything from old Florida to the most modern downtown condo’s and townhomes.

You are sure to find exactly what you want in these two world-class cities.

Buying or selling in the Delray-Boca area and need a recommendation? We can help. Learn more here.

Mayoral Trends

Mayors wrestle with everything from scooters to cannabis.

Every year, many— if not most— mayors give a “State of the City” address.

And each year, the National League of Cities studies what they’re saying and compiles the results into what they call a “State of The Cities” report (very creative).

The report ranks and discusses ten main topic areas that mayors are excited or worried about. It’s an interesting list and while economic development and infrastructure continue to be top priorities for cities, mayors are increasingly exhibiting leadership on newer issues—such as scooters, social media and marijuana.

Below is a list of the top 10 “movers” this year and some comments from a has-been who has been out of the game for 12 plus years.

Economic Development: Opportunity Zones

In 2019, 74 percent of  state of the city speeches gave significant coverage to economic development — meaning a mayor or city manager provided concrete details on a plan, impact or goal related to growing the local economy. Of the 74 percent, 17 percent talked about opportunity zones. While some mayors are discussing what opportunity zones are and how to take advantage of them, others are moving ahead with opportunity zone policies.

Comment: Economic development has always been a hot topic, but opportunity zones are new. I think the zones are great public policy, but the powers that be missed some obvious zones (Congress Avenue, downtown Lake Worth) while blessing some areas that are already blessed.

Infrastructure: Ridesharing

Cities are becoming “smarter”, with new mobility services such as “dockless” bikes, ride sharing and scooters emerging in communities across the country. Mayors are recognizing that if you want to ditch your car in favor of a bike to get to work, you should, and now you can in many cities, towns and villages across the nation.

Comment: We never heard or ridesharing, Uber or Lyft in my day. We did know about carpooling. And bike lanes were a huge topic back in the day.

Health & Human Services: Recreational Marijuana

Communities are approving marijuana use at bars and cafes (really) and are expecting to accrue large financial benefits. From tax receipts to the diminishment of unsafe underground economies, cities are prepared to capitalize on this newly-regulated industry. Coverage of the recreational marijuana subtopic increased from two speeches in 2018 to seven speeches in 2019, an increase of 250 percent. In 2019, 46 percent of speeches significantly covered health and human services, and 10 percent of those provided concrete details regarding recreational marijuana, ranging from changing zoning codes to filing lawsuits against cannabis regulation.

Comment: Not sure we saw the legalization movement coming in the early to mid -2000s. And we thought CBD stood for Central Business District.

Energy & Environment: Solar Power

Advancing solar power is one of the many steps that cities are taking to fight climate change. Local governments are fostering solar energy growth by supplying government buildings and traffic systems with solar energy, embracing community solar power initiatives and reducing the energy burden for low-income households.

Comment: LED lights were just emerging as an option and LEED was gaining popularity. But sea level rise wasn’t on the radar screen.

Budgets & Management: Intergovernmental Relations

Cities are continuing to voice their concerns about the relationship between local and upper levels of government, particularly state overreach and fiscal constraints.

Comment: Mayors have always feared Tallahassee and Washington too. Home rule has always been a hot topic and while we would have welcomed help, we were happy if we weren’t bulldozed by mandates and wacky policy.

 

Housing: Blight and Elimination

In recent years, cities have implemented blight elimination measures, which include rehabilitating or demolishing vacant and abandoned properties to revitalize and strengthen neighborhoods.

Comment: Always a popular topic and focus. We did fear the elimination of Community Development Block Grants which pay for neighborhood rehab projects etc.

Public Safety: Education and Initiatives

Across the United States, more local police and fire departments are engaging with residents to increase education and awareness on public safety issues, ultimately building community trust.

Comment: A perennial. We called it community oriented policing and civic engagement.

Demographics: Civic Engagement

Mayors have consistently encouraged residents to engage in civic activities and provided their constituents with important opportunities that can impact their city’s future. In 2019, some mayors also specifically discussed plans regarding the political participation process and municipal election reform.

Comment: We were there for the hanging chads and the 2000 election so….election integrity and voting were always important concerns. We also were big on visions, charrettes, neighborhood dinners, advisory board recognition, town halls and forming neighborhood associations.

Education: School Outcomes

Both in 2018 and 2019, mayors discussed plans to achieve higher high school graduation rates. In 2019, mayors also announced school programs designed to address issues affecting student performance, such as chronic absenteeism and childhood trauma.

Comment: Education was a huge concern and focus.

Government Data & Technology: Social Media

More local governments are using social media to address pertinent issues within their communities and increase communication with their residents.

Comment: Social media didn’t exist, we didn’t even have a consolidated website when I was first elected in 2000. Technology was on our minds, we wanted online bill pay etc., and added streaming coverage of meetings but it was a simpler time. If someone said 3G to us, we assumed they meant the deli on West Atlantic. P.S. 3G’s has great pastrami.

 

The Importance of Civility

 

“It is the willingness to listen. The thing I fear most is the absence of civility; I don’t fear the argument.” –Leon Botstein, President Bard College.

I saw that quote a few weeks back while on a business trip and it resonated with me because I think Mr. Botstein nailed so much of what’s wrong today.

I don’t think we are willing to listen anymore—certainly not to anyone that we disagree with. We seem to want to assign bad motives to those on the other side of an issue and make a beeline toward the yelling.

Like the President of Bard College, I fear the absence of civility because if we aren’t civil what’s left other than a spiral to violence?

We are at a precipice in America. And we best be careful. Because when you dance on a cliff you might find yourself slipping into an abyss that’s not so easy to climb out from.

So as I wandered the hallways of the Las Vegas Convention Center marveling at the elaborate exhibits at the International Council of Shopping Centers—the new retailers, the cutting edge technologies, the new and wildly creative food and beverage concepts and the dizzying array of deal making—I couldn’t help but feel both excited and worried.

On so many levels, the future looks bright.

The bar is being raised everywhere you look in business and technology.

Is it all good?

No.

We went to a local Walmart when I came home and we watched everyone struggle to scan their own items and I thought “you know I don’t work here, this isn’t efficient and where the heck is the cashier?”

But a lot is good….the plant based burgers that taste like the real thing, the marvelous places design is taking us, the amount of computing power we walk around with when we carry our cell phones and we always carry our phones don’t we?

But the worrisome part is the human part. How we relate to each other.

When we were in Vegas my hometown went to war—at least on Facebook– over a proposal by iPic to add a rooftop restaurant/bar to their new location in downtown Delray.

I can argue both sides of the issue and I see where both sides have some good points. So a good debate/argument would have been fine. One where we listen, one where we decide what’s best for Delray. But on social media that’s not how things play out.

While there were some good arguments articulated, there were a raft of disturbing comments as well.

In the spirit of Jimmy Kimmel’s “mean tweets” segment— in which celebrities read aloud comments made by online trolls—

I’ll share a few. With some commentary of course.

“It’s all about developers BUYING Commissioners!”

 (Comment: there’s no evidence of bribery and if there please alert the authorities.  iPic is not a developer and this is a tired argument used whenever someone proposes a project. I especially love it when someone who lives in a project that was protested when it was proposed makes this argument. I can’t help but think, if the commissioners of their day had listened, you might not live here.)

“I pic (sic) can go to hell in a handbag. They can’t cry over spilled milk. Bieng (sic) underhanded got them no where, and good! (Comment: the logic is almost bad as the syntax).

“So glad I left Delray….when the Yankees took over…”

(Comment: I’ve seen this tired trope a few hundred times, sometimes New Yorkers are used instead of Yanks, but as a New Yorker I get the not so veiled message: this place was Eden before the New Yorkers came here and ruined it. Not only is that a horribly flawed argument, it’s often made by people who are in business as if Yankees don’t buy homes, cars, furniture, meals, financial products etc. There’s one realtor I will never do business with because he just loves to insult New Yorkers. Now that I know what he thinks of me, I figure there are many other good realtors who may appreciate my business and referrals. Is that petty? Maybe. But if I was his broker, he’d be out the door in a New York minute).

I can go on and honestly this last spasm of nasty wasn’t as bad as some others that I have seen. It’s why I use Facebook to share pictures of dogs and my blog—while avoiding the various groups and pages that feed the divide rather than foster debate. For the record, I was texted “screen shots” of the quotes I shared until I begged the sender to stop. I got the drift.

Bottom line: there has got to be a better way.
Because I don’t think the current way is really working here or elsewhere We don’t seem happy as a nation, we don’t seem to be solving problems (as a society) and we don’t seem to be united on much these days.

As a former elected official, I wrestled with some similar challenges. But it seems social media has taken it to a new level of mean.

The commission’s I served on tried to find ways to connect and to foster respectful debate. Sometimes I think we did and sometimes we fell short.

We urged the chamber of commerce to get involved, we tried to create a safe environment at city meetings, charrettes, town halls etc. and we tried to introduce neighbors to each other through “neighborhood dinners.”

Was everybody happy?
Not on your life. (And I have the emails to prove it).

But we tried, and we also understood that you can’t make everyone happy. You have to make decisions and that means some people will walk away fuming. It goes with the territory.

But most of us on the dais, endeavored to raise the level of debate, to keep it fact-based and to do what we felt was best for the long term good of the community. Ultimately, it’s up to the voters and history to decide whether leaders at any level succeed.

But ultimately, it is about civility. The ability to work with our fellow citizens is essential to a healthy and sustainable democracy. Community begins to fall apart when civility crumbles.

Let’s not fear the argument. Let’s fear the absence of civility.

 

 

 

Things We Loved in May

Great documentary with a guest appearance by Delray’s own Max Weinberg.

Things We Loved in May

 

It was great to see Boca Raton based Mela Artisans featured in Florida Trend Magazine in May. The company specializes in selling handmade goods made in India online and in stores such as Home Goods and TJ Maxx.

Keep an eye on this growing company.

 

FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science earned a $652,820 grant from the National Science Foundation to establish an Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning Laboratory. That’s good news for FAU as the Lab is said to be a first of its kind grant for the National Science Foundation proof of the university’s growing reputation in cutting edge fields of research.

 

 

Over 64 of tomorrow’s stars converged on the Delray Beach Swim & Tennis Club May 4-6 for the United States Tennis Association Boys and Girls 18 and under championship.

 

The PIM Open features rising stars who come to Delray for three days of top notch competition.

 

The event provides a boost to the local economy just when we need it, putting heads in beds at hotels and exposing Delray to players, families, coaches, college scouts etc.

 

Tennis is an important industry in Delray and we should grow it,  not litigate it.

 

 

 

 

We wish The EJS Project a happy one year anniversary and congratulate them on a great mini- documentary that was released in May. Check out the organization here: https://www.ejsproject.org/

 

We were honored to attend the 100th anniversary celebrations Plastridge Insurance at the Delray Marriott. Please see our blog about Plastridge and the legacy of the Lynch family here. We were also thrilled to see Plastridge win the “Business of the Century Award” from the Boca Chamber at a gala luncheon at the Boca Resort.

Plastridge Chair Tom Lynch told the capacity crowd that the key to success is to balance business with family life and to find time to take care of your health along the way. Tom is a terrific role model.

Congrats to fellow honorees Sal Saldana GM of Town Center at Boca Raton named Business Leader of the Year & Roxana Scaffidi of Florida Accounting & Advisers who was named Small Business Leader of the Year.

 

We were thrilled to see Frances Bourque get an honorary degree from the University of Florida in May. Please see our tribute here http://yourdelrayboca.com/our-frances-a-most-distinguished-citizen/

 

 

Speaking of Plastridge, CEO Connor Lynch was honored by Sun-Sentinel with a Next Excalibur Award.

 

Lynch, 38,  was not only honored he is the first winner of the Next Excalibur Award, which recognizes the next generation of leaders whose voices will contribute to the growth and sustainability of business and civic life in Palm Beach and Broward counties. Connor was selected by a committee of previous Excalibur award winners. His father was an Excalibur winner in 2000.

How cool is that!

 

Restaurant fare

 

Crazy Mike’s has crazy good wings.

Timpano on Las Olas has awesome food.

Da Best on Dixie and Yamato is a great sandwich shop.

Okeechobee Steakhouse: a classic with a fun bar scene, great service and truly great food. A true gem.

We tried Duck Donuts in Boca and it was awfully good. Just delicious.

The penne with mushrooms at Sardinia—defies description.

Don’t miss the plum wine at Sushi Thai in Delray and we are loving the Bee Hive in Boca.

Also, if you visit iPic Delray check out the pizza. It’s delish.

Last but never least, Ziree never fails in the taste and service department. Highly recommend you visit.

 

Thanks Chuck

Kudos to our friend Chuck Halberg who does so much for the community.

Chuck, a longtime Arts Garage patron, donated the roughly $40,000 worth of improvements that will add a classroom, an improved box office, a bar and administrative offices.

Viva Las Vegas

I attended my first International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas this month.

In a word, it was overwhelming. More than 30,000 attendees, miles of booths and exhibits and some interesting seminars on the future of retail and shopping center design.

One takeaway: while we read about the “retail apocalypse” bricks and mortar still has some life left. Sure things are changing and we have to pay attention and adapt, but 91 percent of retail sales still take place in a physical store. We’ll revisit some of these subjects in upcoming blogs.

 

The 2019 Boca Raton Bowl will be televised on ABC on a Saturday afternoon instead of ESPN on a Tuesday night. The game will be played in FAU Stadium and the date is Dec. 21. Time is 3:30. Very cool. Mark your calendars.

 

Movies:

 

We caught Booksmart at Cinemark. Wonderful directorial debut from Olivia Wilde. The film has a chance to become a classic of the coming of age genre.

Finally, saw Vice on a cross country flight. Powerful. Christian Bale just may be the best actor of his generation.

We also caught a special showing of Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock N’ Roll at the new iPic. Wonderful documentary chronicling the rise, fall and rise again of a seaside city. We’ll have more in an upcoming blog. Highly recommend you go if you love cities, rock music and New Jersey.

 

Books:

 

I finished two books in May and recommend both. Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg is a beautifully written book about the public realm and the best defense of public libraries I’ve ever seen.

Love the title. And the sentiment.

Investments in libraries, parks, community centers, art, culture etc.,  are essential keys to happiness and strong communities. It’s a good message for our troubled times.

 

Thanks to Kate Volman I read Matthew Kelly’s book on creating a winning and happy culture, the Culture Solution.

 

A must read for business, government, academics and non-profit leaders who care about creating winning cultures. And if you don’t care…well you aren’t really a leader.

Until next month. Thanks for reading.

Rewards For Those Who Study

Do you remember when bus tours used to come to Delray to see how we did things?”

That was the question I was asked recently by a friend who also happens to work for the city.
Yes, I do. And I also remember when we took trips to other cities to see how they did things and to share strategies around subjects such as neighborhood revitalization, economic development, historic preservation, public safety, arts, culture and creating a great downtown.
Daytona Beach, GreenCove Springs, Punta Gorda, Winnipeg, Cape Coral, Miami Shores and  a few towns in Alabama,
Massachussetts and South Carolina were among the cities that made the trip here to look at Old School Square, Atlantic Avenue, Pineapple Grove, the Police Department, Fire Department, CRA and City Hall.
Organizations came here too: The Florida Preservation Trust, chambers of commerce from near and far, the Congress for New Urbanism, Florida Planning and Zoning Association, Florida Redevelopment Association, LISC and the list goes on and on.
And we went places too: Transforming Local Government conferences, to Greenville, Neighborhood USA conferences etc.
Now some would say they were junkets. But they would  be wrong.
Those trips, which many times included community partners and residents, built relationships, knowledge and sparked ideas. They were essential to Delray’s redevelopment.
These days I still visit cities and see them through a different lens than before I got involved in local government.
We seek out downtowns, love to walk city streets and try to go off the beaten path where possible.
I find it interesting and inspiring.
I just love cities.
Recently, we wandered downtown Durham, Raleigh and Apex while visiting my daughter Sam in Cary, North Carolina.
I loved seeing the old buildings mixed with the new projects and the adaptive reuse of old tobacco structures.
The Triangle is a dynamic area. Chock full of employment, beautiful neighborhoods, parks, historic districts and teeming with breweries, food halls and cool hotels.
We were wowed.
I was struck by three things: the health of the shopping centers, the abundance of reasonably priced beautiful housing and the sheer amount of employment.
And I thought, this is a good place to study and explore.
A few years ago, a group of business leaders went to Durham to study the area and its business incubation efforts.
I heard a lot about the trip. It’s a good leadership practice to visit other places and to study organizations and businesses.
These trips spark ideas and inspiration.
Similarly, hosting visitors helps you focus on your own success. stories. Sharing those stories are valuable, life affirming and help to build civic pride. Listening to another community’s stories makes us feel—in a small way—a part of things.
I’m still sharing our stories with groups and I still marvel at the work that was done. It makes me appreciate my hometown. And that’s a good thing.

Complacency Is A Killer

I think we’re at risk of losing our edge as a nation.

And that worries me. It worries me a lot.

Every day I read and hear about the dysfunction in our nation’s capital.

The hyper-partisanship.

The inability to seize opportunities, solve problems or to get things done.

The endless bickering and sniping at each other.

Climate change is real, but there’s a large swath of people who just won’t accept the science. So we nibble around the edges, endure catastrophic and costly weather “events” and seem immune to bad news such as a new report that says up to 1 million species of animals and plants are in danger of mass extinction. That’s not a typo…one million species the biggest “event” since the dinosaurs went bye bye.

And the list goes on.

Time Magazine reports that Russia is palling around with the world’s despots exporting trouble and trying desperately to hack into every institution the West values.

China is using its money to buy influence by financing infrastructure projects in other countries while working feverishly to take the lead in key emerging areas such as Artificial Intelligence and 5G wireless.

Meanwhile, our infrastructure is falling apart, we don’t have enough housing, our public schools struggle, we suffer from widespread opioid abuse and we can’t even pass a disaster relief bill to help people in the flood prone Midwest, wildfire scarred Northern California and hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. The beat goes on, but you get the picture.

Sure, every other nation on Earth has its fair share of maladies but this is more about our inability to respond and collaborate than it is about the issues themselves. Truth is, if you are able to respond, work through problems and find common ground, you can solve just about anything or at least make things better.

But I see our nation’s leaders more focused on sticking it to each other than buckling down and working to create a better world for future generations. By the way, that’s what leaders do, focus on leaving a better world. So if you are failing the present and letting down the future you are not leading.  You are laying an egg.

But this is a hyperlocal blog, focused on our community so how does this all relate?
Well, glad you asked.

Boca and Delray are two very successful communities—not trouble free, not perfect, not without challenges and real issues, but fairly successful nonetheless. But like America, if we rest on our laurels, we will be passed by. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday for sure.

The core question then is how to do we survive our success?
Atlantic Avenue is so popular that it’s literally bursting at the seams.

Now that’s a better problem to have than tumbleweeds on your Main Street, but it is an issue.

If I was still a policymaker (and thank goodness I’m retired) I would be worried about high rents on Atlantic fueled by sky high acquisition prices forcing establishments to sling high margin drinks to make ends meet. This leads to a Bourbon Street feel that some people like and others don’t care for.

Now I remain a fan of downtown Delray and take pride in our success, but I’d be concerned about those trends, competition from nearby cities and the need to spread the crowds to other parts of our downtown and make sure that the offerings appeal to a wider demographic.

I know far less about Boca, but I spend a lot of time in that city and I see traffic problems caused by sprawl and hear a lot of angst about the future.

The bottom line is that cities– and nations– no matter how successful can never rest.

Complacency is a killer.

A smug attitude will set you up to be knocked off your pedestal. You have to wake up a little scared every morning…especially when things are going well.

For so long, America led the world and we still do, but our future hegemony is not guaranteed. And the nitwits in D.C. and cable news pundits should be putting America before party loyalty…and that’s directed at both the left and the right.

Back here at home, we can’t assume that Delray will always be the reigning “hot spot” or that Boca will always be “all that” as they say.

Cities need constant renewal. They need vision. They need leadership and competent management and an active, engaged and dedicated citizenry.

No shortcuts.

And no exceptions.

 

 

 

 

Good Versus Bad Congestion

Miami traffic…..ugh

Around this time of year, with the sun shining in South Florida and the snow falling in the northeast we start to hear a familiar lament.

It goes something like this:
“Wow, it sure is crowded this year. The traffic is atrocious… 95 is a parking lot, the avenue is a zoo and you can’t get across Glades Road.”

All true.

Last week, it took me 90 minutes to go from Fort Lauderdale to Boca because I-95 was an absolute mess. Was I frustrated?

Heck yes. (I used stronger language at the time).

But when I stop and think about life in South Florida, my frustration lifts a bit and I get some perspective.

I’m lucky to live here. We all are.

We live in a desirable place.
A very desirable place.

People are flocking to Florida, some for the season, some for vacation and some to ditch the cold and income taxes of other states.

The front page of The Wall Street Journal recently noted the huge influx of people to Florida from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois—even governors of those states are lamenting the loss of residents which they blame on new tax laws that cap state and local tax deductions at $10,000 a year.

Regardless of the reasons, it’s a safe bet that for the foreseeable future (or until rising seas engulf us) Florida is going to remain a hot destination.

Which leads me to traffic and congestion.

We can make light of the issue by quoting the late, great Yogi Berra who once said: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

But with all due deference to Yogi it’s not that simple.

There is such a thing as good congestion.

Heresy you say…but hold on… let me explain.

Good congestion is a place where everybody wants to be.

A beautiful main street or a lively downtown are examples—and those places are typically full of people. You find good congestion in a great destination. Downtown Delray is a great destination and yes it is congested. Sometimes annoyingly so, but consider the alternative. It could be dead. It once was and it could be again if we don’t tend to its health.

Consequently, bad congestion is a place where you just want to get through—but you can’t get through fast enough because of the congestion. Bad congestion often occurs in miserable places to be—like an interstate or a major arterial road lined with strips malls and big box stores. We don’t need to list examples—they’re all around us.

So how do you tell the difference between good and bad congestion?
In a place with good congestion, you will see people outside of cars—walking, biking, sitting outside etc. You see people having fun. You see them talking and dining. You see life.

In a place with bad congestion, you don’t see people— you see cars. As I sat motionless on I-95 last week, I looked at the people in the cars. They were miserable like me. I saw a lot of sad faces.

When I inched my way to the off ramp and drove through more sprawl, I saw more cars. I didn’t see people.

So yes, it’s busy.

Yes, if you drive down Atlantic Avenue and miss the bridge you may be sitting in traffic for a bit but you do see people. You see diners, walkers, a few dogs and some smiles too.

Sure, sometimes we’d like to fly down Atlantic Avenue but just know that if you’re able to speed consistently on your Main Street, it’s probably because you’ve lost your vibrancy. I’d rather we have good congestion with people and successful businesses than a place where you can bowl on Main Street and not hit anything.

 

Things We Loved In February

Radu Albot rode a string of upsets to win the Delray Open.

Things We Loved in February

Joni 75 at iPic.

This special concert film captured a magical night marking Joni Mitchell’s 75th birthday.

Great performances by Graham Nash, James Taylor, Norah Jones, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Los Lobos, Seal and others.

Just amazing. And the iPic experience is sensational. Can’t wait for the Delray version to open in March.

As for Joni, her music is timeless.

 Killer App

Don’t miss the “sweet angels” appetizer at Papas Tapas one of my favorite restaurants on the planet.

 Great Young Minds

My team had a chance to work with a cohort of graduate students from the University of Miami as we contemplate options for the old Office Depot headquarters.

The students are studying design and real estate development under the tutelage of placemaking expert Chuck Bohl, a UM professor.

I’ve been a big fan of Dr. Bohl for years so it’s a thrill to work with him.

The students are bright and passionate. Can’t wait to see what they come up with.

 In Praise of La Cigale

La Cigale never fails to impress.

Delicious food, wonderful service.

 In Praise of Independent Film

The Movies of Delray is an independent theater that shows some films you can’t find anywhere else.

We saw a gem called “Heading Home” the story of Team Israel which shocked the world with an impressive performance in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The film won the Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival’s top honor and is very special. A rowd pleaser from start to finish the documentary tells the story of  how a group of Jewish American ball players bonded with each other and discovered their roots.

A special treat: the director of the film and one of its stars Cody Decker of the Arizona Diamondbacks made a surprise appearance to answer questions and talk about the future of America’s pastime in Israel.

It was a cool experience.

 Off the Beaten Path

We like to venture off the beaten path especially during the busy season and as a result we’ve discovered some culinary gems.

Hacienda, a large Mexican restaurant on the southeast corner of Atlantic Avenue and Military Trail, is one of our finds.

We had a large family dinner there in February and enjoyed the food and attentive service. The San Gria wasn’t bad either.

We recommend you venture off the beaten path every now and again. There’s a lot to be discovered in our community— off the beaten path.

 Shout out to Lori Nolan

We noticed that the wonderful Lori Nolan celebrated 20 years with the Delray CRA on Valentine’s Day. How appropriate since we love Lori and her stellar work running the CRA Green Market all these years. Wishing her the best on the next 20! She’s been terrific and invaluable.

 A New Chief

Congratulations also to new Delray Police Chief Javaro Sims who was chosen for the post by City Manager Mark Lauzier.

It’s a tough job but after nearly 27 years of service we have confidence in Chief Sims.

 Meet the Beatles

What better place than Old School Square to spend Valentine’s Day?

And what better way to spend it than listening to a great Beatles tribute band with the love of your life.

We saw the Mersey Beatles at the Crest and they played Abbey Road start to finish to mark the 50th anniversary of that landmark LP. They also played a huge array of hits from early albums including my favorite Rubber Soul.

The Mersey Beatles are four lads from Liverpool and are widely considered at the top of the list of Beatles tribute bands.

As a special treat, we got to see John Lennon’s sister Julie Baird who was in Delray to raise awareness for Strawberry Fields, a non-profit in Liverpool that works with youth. It was a special Delray night.

We would have went to Dada after the show. After all, Yelp just named it the 100th most romantic restaurant in the United States but alas it was late and we are too old to be out late on a school night.

 History at the Delray Open

I like the Delray Open. Pro tennis is good for Delray. The event distinguishes us as a city. It’s worth the money and drives economic development.

It was great to see Radu Albot make history as the first person from Moldava to win a pro tennis tournament. A few years back, Kei Nishikori became the first man from Japan to win an ATP event.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Bryan Brothers captured their 117th title…a record for doubles.

 Last Resort

We saw The Last Resort at Living Room Theater.

It’s an affectionate look back at Miami Beach’s 1950s-1980 heyday through the lens of two talented photographers.

It’s also a must see. A great documentary.

 In Search of Manatee’s

Thanks my sister in law we discovered Manatee Lagoon in Riviera Beach in February.

It’s a beautiful facility where manatees and other fish gather to swim in waters warmer by FPL equipment.

Even though we didn’t see any manatees we did see tarpon and barracuda and enjoyed the exhibit space. A great place to hang.

 Happy anniversary

A hearty congratulations to our friends at Plastridge Insurance on their 100th birthday.

In today’s complex world, it is truly special to not only last but to grow and improve. Plastridge has done all three.

That takes leadership, vision, an ability to adapt and the courage to evolve.

In addition, the agency and its employees have served the community in a vast array of ways. For its 100th birthday, Plastridge donated $100,000 to local charities.

Tom, Connor and Brendan Lynch and the entire Plastridge team have much to be proud of and we have much to admire as we celebrate one of Delray’s historic businesses.

Here’s to the next 100 years. Congratulations!

 Due South

I belong to a truly terrific business group led by Bryan DeFrances and Matt Kutcher of JP Morgan Chase.

Really special group of people who get together each month.

Last month, the group took a guided tour of Due South, a great brewery in Boynton’s Brewery District.

Joe, our guide, was excellent— as was the beer. If you go, and we highly recommend that you do, try the Cat 5 and Caramel beers—incredible. Also don’t miss the gourmet food truck. It may be the best around.

Kudos to Boynton Beach for creating and supporting the district.

Here’s to March!

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons Learned

ULI is a global non-profit.

I’m a huge fan of the Urban Land Institute.

ULI is a global organization that promotes responsible development and the organization is often called on to provide expert advice on how to build great communities.

I’ve worked with the organization on a few special projects over the years including public leadership seminars and an in-depth dive into the future of Winter Park, Florida.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a talented panel seeking to help Tamarac, in West Broward County make sense of their potential.

It was a great experience and I got to meet some terrific elected officials and very dedicated staff. The ULI panel also consisted of some really smart people including economic development professionals, a real estate broker for a large firm, a cutting edge developer and a very talented urban designer from Miami. I thought I’d share a small portion of my session on public leadership.

 

Ten Lessons Learned

 (Some the hard way, but most by watching other leaders and learning from talented mayors).

  1. Focus on the Big Rocks (Don’t Major in the Minor)

Being an elected official is like drinking from a fire hose… you will get lost in the weeds if you’re not careful. Successful elected officials learn to lead and leave the management to staff. They also focus on large meaningful goals—“the big rocks.”

 

2. Trust But Verify

(Trust movement but outcomes are more important than words)

 

Even if you focus on the big picture, you will be blamed for the potholes. So empower staff to do their jobs but also hold them accountable for getting things done—both large and small. Outcomes are what you will be judged on. Process is important, but sometimes you can have process without outcomes. Make sure that doesn’t happen. You have to deliver. Have a sense of urgency.

 

3. Have a Vision-

The “Grassroots” (your constituents) depend on the “Grass Tops” (elected officials and senior staff) to get things done.

The most successful cities have a vision for what they want to be and how they’ll get there.

The best cities are aspirational, so dare to dream but also understand who you are as a community.

Visions Should Be Community Based—coming from the Grassroots.

Community Visions Should Be Sacred– Elected officials (Grass tops) are Stewards and have a responsibility to deliver.

Visions allow you to say no to projects that don’t fit and to say yes to projects that fit the vision.

 

4. Find Shared Goals

 The most successful councils/commission’s have shared goals.

Not having shared goals leads to:

Dysfunction

Staff Confusion

Inaction—whose ideas, projects should we pursue?

Creates Winners and Losers

End result—it’s hard to make sustained progress.

Once the other side gets in or the players change, policies, directions and progress are often reversed. One step up, two steps back syndrome.

 

5. Celebrate Success

(Blame is a given in public life, might as well celebrate when you succeed)

Let the community know when you fulfill a promise or achieve a goal.

It’s important to celebrate—it builds civic pride and confidence in City Hall. You need to build a reservoir of good will to take advantage of opportunities and to weather setbacks.

 

6. The Loudest Voices Aren’t Necessarily Representative of the Community

 

Be wary of people who claim to speak for “everyone”

Our jobs as elected officials is to leave the city better than we found it. Sometimes that means making tough decisions that may not always be popular at the time we are asked to vote.  But if  your votes are tied to a community vision or goals, you will survive and thrive.

 

7. Mayors and Commissioners are the architects of their city

 

We are responsible for holding developers to high standards…but we are also responsible for making sure there is “rule of law” and a predictable process. If we allow our cities to become nightmares, we will chase away investment and or attract the wrong investors. Mayors and commissioners set the tone for their cities. Are we nice? Are we civil? Are we professional? Or are we mean and petty? Mean and petty is a recipe for failure.

 

8. The Best Economic Development is a Clear Vision and Predictable Process

 

If you can develop a compelling vision for your city, it will serve as a great sales and marketing tool for your town. If you can get investors through your process without it becoming a clown show or worse you will see progress. It’s that simple. The best incentives are a compelling vision and a predictable process with high standards.

 

9. Once Votes Are Taken, It’s Our Responsibility to Make Sure We Get the Best Outcomes Possible


We won’t always get our way. We will lose tough votes. But once the roll is called and the votes are cast we must move on and not re-litigate over and over. If the decision is horrible, it will tend to reveal itself in time and you will have another chance to right the wrong. If it moves forward, we must move forward too.

 

10. Municipal Math

(Math can be cruel)

 

It takes 10-20 years to build something of value, 1-2 years to mess it up and there is no guarantee you will recover. So think about the future and leave your city better off than when you were entrusted with its welfare.

 

 

A Leadership Opportunity Emerges

The winning bidder’s project is called Alta West.

When you go to the few neighborhood hangouts that are left, talk often turns to local happenings.

So when I ventured downtown after the CRA decision to award six acres of land to a local developer recently, I was asked what I thought about the project. The short answer is I don’t know, because I haven’t really been following the drama.

I didn’t spend five hours or so watching the video feed, didn’t go to the usual social media haunts where armchair “experts” opine (often without any facts) and didn’t talk to any of the players involved. As a hometown guy I just hope they picked the best project. That’s their job.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on the big picture.

I do.

And as an armchair quarterback myself these days I don’t mind sharing.

The day after the vote my friend and neighbor Commissioner Bill Bathurst posted a cartoon on Facebook that kind of sums up America these days. The cartoon depicts a large group of people walking along a path toward hate, division and intolerance and only a few walking down a path labeled critical thinkers and the truth.

So even though I don’t visit the political pages on Facebook anymore,  I can’t help but bump into the noise that is out there. Some of it is really good analysis, but a great deal of it is angry diatribes and the settling of personal scores. Unfortunately, what’s best for the community gets lost in the commotion.

So here is my armchair analysis, based on nearly 32 years of following things in Delray. All provided with the proviso that I have never looked at any of the projects submitted to redevelop the CRA property on West Atlantic Avenue.

First and foremost—we are flying without navigation; therefore I don’t think we have a unified vision. If we do have one, I don’t see it.

We used to have one back in the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s. But we’ve gone a long while without a blueprint that the community can agree on. And if there is a vision—say the Set Transformation Plan for one important part of town (but not all of Delray)—it doesn’t help if the city is not on board. Visions drive goals, budgets and ultimately accountability. How can we evaluate our progress, if we don’t  know where we’re going? Sadly, personal scores fill the vacuum when leadership fails to provide a forum for the community to create a vision.

Look no further than Washington D.C. to see what happens when there is no unified vision.

The place simply doesn’t function.

So even when we agree that we need to have comprehensive immigration reform, fix our infrastructure and improve our health care system we don’t have a framework or a methodology for doing any of it. So all we see is partisan warfare, skirmishes, sound bites, gridlock and dysfunction. When something does get done, we’re actually surprised. Which is really sad when you stop and think about it.

This level of dysfunction is why people are angry—because all they see and hear is pettiness and empty sound bites—not the critical thinking, fact based decision making and yes compromise that is needed to solve problems and seize opportunities.

In the last few weeks, there have been a lot of articles about mayors running for president and some have declared their intention to do so or are considering a bid.

Why?
Because—in theory anyway—mayors are supposed to be problem solvers. The best use their “soft power” to convene people and focus attention on issues that need to be solved or opportunities that their cities should pursue. That’s what effective mayors do. Mayors that matter.

Ineffective mayors divide or simply hide by “keeping their own counsel” or just placating their base and ignoring the rest of the community’s stakeholders.

The awarding of an RFP after years of property aggregation, planning and a laborious RFP (request for proposals) process should be the cause of celebration and excitement.

After all, private investment is coming to an area that needs it.

Jobs will be created.

Property values will increase.

New businesses will take root.

It’s opportunity.

But I’m not sure that’s what I’m seeing. There doesn’t seem to be any excitement or pride in the process that led us here.

Of course, I could be wrong. But it seems that several of the decision makers were less than happy with the process and the politics—even those on the prevailing side.

There’s a large group of stakeholders who celebrated that one applicant wasn’t chosen but didn’t seem to be happy with the outcome either.

Maybe that’s the world today, but I refuse to accept that cynical view. The beauty of local government is we don’t have to act like the nitwits in Washington whom I believe history will judge very harshly, we can decide to do better. We can decide to be better. It’s a choice we can make.

That’s the leadership opportunity.

Fact is, this RFP should not have taken several  years to award. That fact alone is indicative of the dysfunction that has invaded our politics right here at home.

Again, I’m not involved in this issue and don’t plan to be. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I don’t have a voice that I plan to use.

I live here. I have an obligation and a right to care. But we seem to be stuck in a climate of division and paranoia. That’s the real issue here and the one we should all care about.

I’ll give you a personal example. At some point along this multi-year RFP odyssey, a wannabe political lackey was calling around trying to sniff out whether I had a dog in this hunt. I can assure you the information the lackey was seeking was not in an effort to help.  The effort was an intelligence gathering operation designed to settle an old score or make points with some power broker they wanted to impress. Nowhere in this effort was there a desire to make sure that the best project possible for Delray would be chosen.

The lackey could have called me but didn’t. I assure you the conversation would have been short and probably not that sweet. But I would have given some needed advice: stop looking behind every bush and start getting things done for Delray.

Simple advice. You don’t have to be a management guru to figure it out.

But getting things done—once Delray’s calling card and the reason for any success we’ve enjoyed—is a muscle that seems to have atrophied on some key projects and in some key areas.

This isn’t a shot at anyone. It really isn’t.

But it is a call to arms so to speak.

There is a lot to be done here.

Such as the continuing redevelopment of West Atlantic Avenue and The Set. The operative word is continuing because those politicos who spout that nothing has been done can write or call me and I will be happy to give them a personal tour of the progress that has been made by a CRA that has been ruthlessly and unfairly been maligned by people who ought to know better.

Saying that nothing has been done is not only untrue, it is disrespectful to a whole lot of people who have rolled up their sleeves for decades and made some good things happen. I can give you a list if you need it.

Nobody has ever said that more investment or more progress wasn’t needed. But if we are to get unstuck we have to start from a basis of truth and respect.  We have to rebuild trust that I think once existed however imperfect that trust has been through the years.

We need to decide as a community that we want to get things done, function better and more efficiently and yes treat each other better. That doesn’t mean that we have to hold hands and sing ‘kumbaya’ on the grounds of Old School Square. Vigorous debate, critical thinking and accountability are essential ingredients.

We need to elevate the conversation in Delray Beach and just as important we need to put the community first and start to get things done—like we used to do.

 

 

Those Great, Good Places

Found this shot of Ken and Hazel’s on Newspaper.com

I’m a member of my hometown page on Facebook.

It’s a combination of great photos, obituaries, current news and nostalgia.

It’s a great way to stay in touch and reminisce.

Recently, someone created a hugely popular post listing old businesses.

The post went viral and has attracted scores of responses as the list of “great old places” keeps growing; old pizza places that we loved, long shuttered department stores, delis, record stores (remember those?), grocers, movie theaters (when one screen was the rule and a triplex was a big deal), bowling alleys, florists and sub shops (or were they hero, grinder or sandwich shops?)I can’t remember.

The post was a great walk through the past. And it’s still going on.

Which got me thinking of some great old businesses that once inhabited this place.

Now admittedly, my history only dates to the summer of ‘87 but that’s 30 plus years— enough to have seen a few things come and go.
So here’s my list. Feel free to add.

Burger Chin, the Arcade Tap Room, Ken and Hazel’s, the Patio Delray, Costin’s Florist, Mercer Wenzel, AE George and Sons, Clay and Hy’s Boutique, Damianos, Splendid Blendeds, Bob Miller State Farm Insurance, Sefa, The Phoenix, Sopra, Delray TV, Pierce Tire, The Rod and Gun, Dirty Moe’s, Liberties, Louie Louie’s, Tryst, Sal’s Sporting Goods, The Trellis Shop, the Seagull Shop, Tom’s Ribs, Club Boca, Taco Viva, the Delray Mall, Webster’s, Jefferson’s, the Boca Mall, Mervyn’s, Pete’s, D Train, Locos Only, Elwood’s, Las Hadas, Pineapple Grill, Hoot, Toot & Whistle, Gillis & Sons and The Annex. Whew.
You get the drift…
Great places all..at least as I remember them.