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.

The Roads Not Taken

Neal Peirce

Neal Peirce died over the holidays and we shouldn’t let his passing go without a look back at his life and his influence.

Mr. Peirce was a journalist and researcher who studied cities, regions and states—not exactly a sexy beat but an important one because communities change or stagnate on the local level far from the gaze of Cable TV pundits and national media.

As a result, if you were a policymaker in the 80s, 90s and 2000s with a burning desire to make your time in  office count, you were most likely aware of Mr. Peirce and influenced by his work.

As an elected official in Delray Beach from 2000-07, I read every word he wrote, subscribed to his column and poured over his reports seeking ideas, insights and wisdom.

He was a hero of mine. And he inspired many other mayors I go to know through the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Florida League of Cities.

In addition to a syndicated column, Mr. Peirce was a partner in a firm called Citistates.

Cities, states and regions would hire the firm to study their communities and make recommendations on how to solve problems or take advantage of opportunities, some of them hidden.

About 20 years ago, business, non-profit and civic leaders in South Florida engaged Citistates in a unique effort that also included major regional newspapers which agreed to publish Mr. Peirce’s “think” pieces so that stakeholders could be educated on some of the opportunities and challenges we faced.

When Mr. Peirce passed during the holidays, I went back and read a few of the old newspaper columns including a wonderful piece on U.S. 1 that included recommendations to turn the auto-oriented highway into more of a neighborhood.

Peirce envisioned U.S. 1 becoming a new “Main Street” linking South Florida from the Treasure Coast to South Dade. He recommended that the Florida Department of Transportation reclassify U.S. 1 as a “local access road”, not a thoroughfare for moving traffic as a rapidly as possible.

“High speed traffic is the job of I-95 and other such arterials,” he wrote.

And he was right.

Delray took that advice and I was a policymaker at the time the decision was made to narrow Federal Highway. It was not an easy or obvious decision and the opposition to the plan was formidable—as were the proponents who wanted to make the road safer (there was a high incidence of accidents) and more picturesque. They argued that it made no sense to have a high speed freeway bisecting a pedestrian oriented downtown. We studied the issue for a year, studying speeds, looking at accident history and traffic volume before ultimately deciding to proceed with the project.

In my mind, it turned U.S. 1 in Delray from a highway into a neighborhood and gave the area a host of economic and placemaking opportunities.

Reading Mr. Peirce’s column on U.S. 1 I have no doubt that his thinking had an effect.

Peirce and his partner Curtis Johnson published a series of articles in 2000 in local newspapers on topics ranging from sustainability and traffic to New Urbanism and the difficulties of getting things done in a sprawling region with a vast variety of governments and players to navigate.

If you want to check out the articles that ran in the Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald here’s a link. http://www.floridacdc.org/roundtable/index.html

If you read the pieces, you are struck by their continuing relevance and also by what wasn’t done.

Twenty years have gone by and we still haven’t addressed sprawl, environmental issues and affordable housing.

With Mr. Peirce’s passing, I can’t think of another journalist covering the urban beat that measures up. Governing Magazine had the great Otis White some years back and he did two major pieces on Delray Beach but he left the magazine and now that wonderful publication is going away too.

The newspapers that partnered with key non-profits to produce the Citistates project are a shell of their former selves. As a result, we no longer have a regional or community water cooler; a place to share ideas and create momentum for positive change.

Back in 2000, New Urbanism seemed like a logical solution to traffic, sprawl and environmental degradation and a chance to return some charm to what can be a cookie cutter landscape of bland design.

But in 2020, we see the same tired arguments against New Urban style development despite growing traffic and a lack of affordable housing and walkability. I cringe when I get vapid campaign emails from candidates decrying density in one sentence and vowing to save the environment in the next breath. Folks, sprawl like development is not good for the environment. It creates traffic, uses more water and will never create the amount of housing we need to help teachers, police officers and firefighters be able to live in our communities.

All of this may sound like the work of people like Neal Peirce doesn’t matter. That’s not what I believe.

I think crusading journalists and thinkers like Neil Peirce make a difference.

In 2000, Peirce wrote passionately about highway gridlock and the dangers of sprawl. If only we had listened and acted as a region, but I would argue Delray did listen and did act and that we need to continue with smart growth and community engagement practices.

Mr. Peirce had a prescription to address sprawl: utilize planning and community engagement to design a better future. He called for “mega charrettes” to bring the community to the table.

“Consider the 1.8-million-by-2020-population projection (I think he meant additional residents moving in not total population) and debate honestly, openly where the new growth ought to go. Even if a consensus wasn’t reached — and it might not be — the true, region wide issues would be a lot clearer.

 

How can the emerging technologies, starting with neighborhood planning programs, be made available to ordinary citizens, businesses, people interested in new development possibilities and futures? One solution: walk-in urban design centers in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, designed to marry the worlds of professional design and grassroots activism.

 

Ideally, architecture or planning departments from local universities would run these centers. Information on the whole gamut of planning challenges — from single transit stops or suburban neighborhood centers to growth corridors, waterfronts and affordable housing — would be available.

 

Such centers are already open and operating in such varied places as Chattanooga, Birmingham, Little Rock and Portland, Ore., with very favorable reports on their performance. For democratized development in South Florida, they might represent a dramatic breakthrough.”

Alas, it didn’t happen. But it’s not too late. Or is it?

 

 

A Peak Into Our Crystal Ball

Casey Stengel said never make predictions, especially about the future. Sorry, Casey.

Can you believe it’s 2020?

Didn’t it seem like only yesterday when we were sweating Y2K?

Well not only did our computers survive the millennium, they have become ever more ingrained in our lives.

The beginning of a decade is a good time to dream and to take out our imaginary crystal ball.

So here are some predictions and prognostications for the 20s…

Boca Raton:
Boca Raton will continue to flourish driven by the power of FAU and Lynn universities, the growth of the Boca Raton Innovation Campus, the successful execution of the Brightline deal and a refresh of Mizner Park with several new tenants.

Fueled by new investment, the Boca Raton Resort and Club will solidify its place as one of the world’s premier resorts hosting important conferences and attracting titans of industry who will fly into an ever busier  Boca Airport.

Boca’s decade will be marked by its strengths in health care, education and technology. It will become known not only for excellent health care, but also for medical research and education.

It’s “A” rated public schools, excellent parks system, great hospital and corporate base will continue to fuel the city’s growth and success.

Yes, we are very bullish on Boca.

Headwinds: traffic and affordability. Nothing new there. But big challenges nonetheless.
Opportunities: leveraging Brightline and bringing a pedestrian orientation to the downtown. Not easy but worth a try.
Stretch prediction: By 2030 FAU will play in a major bowl game and go deep in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Delray Beach: 

Delray can achieve whatever it wants to—or it can squander the decade. Sounds harsh…maybe. Still, history has taught us that this city works best when it has a North Star and goes after it. But only when it engages the community. There has been no large scale effort to do so since the Downtown Master Plan in the early 2000s. We are long overdue and deeply in need of a unifying vision.

Delray will squander the decade if the focus remains on petty politics and settling personal vendettas and if the grass tops ignore the grassroots.

Opportunities:
Getting something going on North Federal Highway.
Getting something going on Congress Avenue.
Attract private investment to West Atlantic East of 95.
Fix City Hall.
Empower city staff.
Build on the city’s many strengths-vibrancy, a strong brand, events, culture and restaurants.

Fix an aging infrastructure while interest rates are historically low.

Engage citizens.

Build on the city’s tennis heritage to create economic opportunities.

Headwinds and land mines:
There is a pressing need to focus on Delray’s public schools.
The city needs to ramp up economic development which is virtually non-existent.

There is a need to raise the level of discourse on important issues ranging from development and investment to how downtown can survive rising rents and the changing retail environment.

Stretch prediction:
Delray’s culinary scene will get national attention. We have some exceptional culinary talents in the city.
But we need to diversify and add some strong ethnic offerings.
Regardless, the future is not yet written. So if you don’t like what you see, or if you want to see something happen, get involved.

 

Rex Baron: The New Era of Experiential Dining

Rex Baron opened in Boca last week and it’s an experience.

Last week, we had a chance to attend the opening of “Rex Baron”, a new restaurant concept at the Town Center Mall.

Aside from getting to hang out with former Giants running back Rashad Jennings (he’s terrific and an investor in the business) which was cool, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a place quite like Rex Baron.

It’s an experiential restaurant with great food (and many healthy options) and a vast array of virtual reality experiences that allow you to experience everything from Jurassic Park and NASCAR to a post-apocalyptic Boca Raton. I think I’m decent with words, but I can’t quite describe the place. You have to see for yourself and you really must. It’s amazing.

Spread out over 8,200 square feet including beautiful outdoor space, a private room with a golf simulator and a magnificent bar/dining area Rex Baron is an exciting new concept.

We asked Mr. Jennings what attracted him to Rex Baron because we figured a former football star and “Dancing with the Stars” champ must be offered a slew of investment opportunities. While he was impressed with the VR component and the uniqueness of the design, he was really taken with the quality food options as someone who eats healthy but also fancies himself a chicken wing connoisseur.

“They are the best wings I’ve ever had,” said the LA based Jennings. “The best.”

By the time my friend Marisa Herman and I were done with Rashad, we had him considering a move to Boca and a job at the newspaper we run. He is after all a New York Times best-selling author who says he loves to write.

But I digress.

Let’s just say Rex Baron is a welcome and extremely unique addition to the Boca landscape.

The new restaurant is located near Nordstrom’s and Sachs adjacent to California Pizza Kitchen.

The opening of Rex Baron got me thinking about the marvel that is Town Center.

In a world where malls are closing or distressed, Town Center continues to thrive.

Why?
Because it evolves with the times. The mall still looks fresh and modern and feels vibrant and alive. It’s hard to imagine the mall will turn 40 in 2020.

They have added some great food options—including a soon to open French Bakery that is said to be out of this world.

It manages to stay busy year-round and seems to combine the perfect blend of shopping and dining.

Town Center’s tenants are also community focused hosting special events that benefit local charities.

I remember coming to Florida for a job interview in the 80s and visiting the mall. I was blown away way back then. Town Center was so much different than the drab northeast malls I was used too. It had palm trees, natural light, a strong retail mix and was the place to people watch.

Thirty years later it is still evolving and still relevant.

Rex Baron is the latest example.

Check it out…it’s spectacular.

 

The Climate Like The Times Are A Changin’

I saw an old friend the other day and she told me she was considering moving back to the northeast.

“Why?” I asked. “I thought you loved South Florida.”

“I do, but I just can’t take the heat anymore,” she said.

I get it. So do the lonely unworn sweaters that sit in the dark recesses of my closet. They long to be seen.

We are coming off the hottest October since record keeping began 127 years ago and temps nearing 90 degrees continued into early November.

I’ve lived here 32 years and you don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand that the weather is changing. I don’t remember worrying about King Tides or even talking about them until recently.

As for hurricanes, well we’ve always lived in fear of them but now we are told that they will be stronger, more frequent and will move more slowly in the future which means more havoc and destruction.

But let’s back up a tad.

There are those who deny climate change despite the overwhelming science and the evidence we are seeing with our own eyes. But pick up any newspaper or tune into any news station and it sure seems like the climate is making a lot of noise these days.

Freak fall snowstorms. Record droughts. Wildfires. Super storms. Heat waves and rising seas are there for all to see or I suppose deny.

Luckily, in Florida anyway, most of the public seems to get it.

A recent survey by Florida Atlantic University reveals that most Floridians are concerned about climate change but don’t feel government is doing enough to address the problem.

Two-thirds of Floridians are concerned about the well-being of future generations due to climate change and that Florida state government is not doing enough to address climate change impacts, according to the first-ever Florida Climate Resilience Survey conducted by the Florida Atlantic University Center for Environmental Studies (CES).

The statewide survey shows that 68% of Floridians either agree or strongly agree that climate change has them concerned about the well-being of future generations in Florida. Only 28% said that Florida’s government (state, county and municipal) is already doing enough to address the impacts of climate change.

Here are some of the highlights of the survey:

  • A majority of respondents support future solar energy production in Florida (51%).
  • Almost half of respondents are willing to pay $10 per month to strengthen Florida’s infrastructure (such as bridges, roads, stormwater systems) to weather hazards (47%).
  • A majority of respondents are in favor teaching climate change causes, consequences, and solutions in Florida K-12 classrooms (68%).
  • More than half of Floridians (56%) state that climate change is real and that it is largely caused by human activity, including 44% of Republicans, and 59% of Independents, and 70% of Democrats.
  • Nearly 6 in 10 Floridians (59%) believe their household to be well-prepared for climate hazards, with survival supplies such as food, water, power generators, phone chargers and radios.
  • Most Floridians are moderately or extremely concerned about hurricanes becoming stronger or more frequent (65%), temperatures rising (61%), and rising sea levels (59%).

“Florida’s prosperity is strongly influenced by its climate,” said Colin Polsky, Ph.D., director of the FAU Center for Environmental Studies and lead author of the study. “Our warm

temperatures and abundant rainfall support our top-tier tourism, agriculture and other industries. But our weather patterns also present Floridians with risks, such as flooding and high winds.

Today, the prospect of climate change adds to our risk profile in ways we are only starting to understand. The results from this first quarterly statewide survey paint a picture of how resilient

Floridians are to the climate risks we face.”

Younger Floridians ages 18-49 are more likely to agree with the scientific consensus on climate change and its attribution to human activities (60 percent) than those ages 50-64 and 65 and over (51 and 52 percent, respectively).

“Since the early 1990s, the climate change question at the national-level has become increasingly polarized along party lines,” Polsky said. “Yet in recent years a growing number of

states and cities have taken meaningful actions to recognize, study, and address climate change. These actions are largely consolidated in blue-leaning states, unlike Florida, and the national level discourse remains polarized along partisan lines.”

Yet, the business community is viewed by a large swath of the electorate (45 percent) as the group who will, through innovation and entrepreneurship, lead Floridians to successfully adapt to weather hazards.

“In my experience in southeast Florida for the past five years, the private sector leaders are, regardless of party affiliation, are not only actively concerned about challenges linked with our

changing climate, but also committed to meaningful actions,” Polsky said. “They’re even getting impatient. Now through this survey, we may be seeing similar support statewide for climate

solutions grounded in innovation and entrepreneurship.”

It’s about time.

Or maybe it’s too late. I sure hope not.

So much is riding on how we meet this challenge.

Much of our tax base sits along the coast. So much of our population is vulnerable.

We have no choice but to try and figure things out.

Awareness is important, but taking action is critical.

P.S. Sprawl like development isn’t the answer.

 

 

 

 

Remembering Bob Currie

Bob Currie

A number of years ago, I had lunch with a retired city employee who said something that resonated deeply with me.
She told me that while Delray was a wonderful town, we didn’t know how to say thank you to people who contributed greatly to our community.
I’m afraid that might be true.
So many good ones get away without formal recognition.
It’s not right and we should do something about it.
In fact, one of the reasons I write this blog and one of the reasons I invested in a community newspaper was to say thank you to special people who have enriched our community.
We lost Bob Currie last week and he was one of those special people. Very special.
Delray owes him a heaping debt of gratitude because his accomplishments are vast and his influence was widely felt.
If you like our public library, Bob is one of the people you should thank. He served on the library board for years and was dedicated to making sure we got a new one on West Atlantic.
He lived near the beach and was dedicated to the Beach Property Owners Association whose leadership adored and respected him.
He was passionate about Pineapple Grove and dedicated thousands of hours to the district, giving special attention to the design of projects in the neighborhood and to the gateway arch. I was with him the night it was first lit. We sat with half a dozen volunteers at a nearby restaurant and toasted the future—a future that people like Bob envisioned. He was a believer. A true believer in this town.
He was passionate about historic preservation and was immensely dedicated to the restoration and success of Old School Square.
He loved the “bones” of the place taking special delight in the Crest Theatre.
He loved the people who were similarly dedicated to Old School Square, especially founder Frances Bourque. He adored her and she loved him.
Bob gave so much of his time to the betterment of what I believe is Delray’s signature civic project.
Bob was a talented and experienced architect. His firm’s stamp can be found all over Delray and throughout South Florida and parts beyond.
Bob’s dad was an architect too and he was deeply devoted to the field.
He loved to paint, golf and travel.
He was smart, not afraid to argue for a position and earned his place as the dean of Delray’s architectural community.

Bob was a throwback to a time when dedicated volunteers made Delray Beach a very special place. They were long term players, deeply committed to Delray and able to work with others. They were interested in the big picture. Hence Bob’s interest in Pineapple Grove, the beach, OSS, the downtown and historic districts.
I miss those days.
Delray misses those days.
And Delray will miss Bob Currie.
He was a wonderful man. We were blessed that this is where he landed and that he decided to give his time and talents to Delray Beach.
Rest In Peace my friend.

Thank you….

Things We Loved In September

Stephanie Immelman is the new CEO of the Delray Chamber.

Things We Loved In September

Bahamian Relief efforts. It was great to see the community response to Hurricane Dorian. The efforts were heartfelt and needed.
Boynton Beach will hereafter be known as the city of romance.
Elitesingles.com has named six South Florida cities to its most romantic cities list.
Boynton Beach tops the list with Boca landing at number 6 well ahead of number 17 West Palm Beach. No sign of Delray in the rankings….sigh.
The rankings are based on data compiled by more than 150,000 people who use the website.
Tech Power
South Florida Business Journal’s 2019 Tech Power List includes a bunch of local names. Here they are:
Joe Russo, who spearheads Palm Beach Tech and the 1909 incubator which has a location in Delray, Felecia Hatcher of Code Fever, Gregory Van Horn of Launch Potato, ShipMonk CEO Jan Bednar who went to FAU and got his start at FAU’s Tech Runway, Dan Cane of Boca’s Modernizing Medicine, Rob Flippo of Boca based Mobile Help, Boca’s Adam Rogers of Ultimate Software, Sam Zietz of Touchsuite and  Rhys Williams of Tech Runway were on the elite list. Very cool.
Food and Beverage
Vino Wine Bar in Boca.
Magnificent wine list, wonderful pastas and great apps.
Don’t miss the chicken piccata and the gnocchi.
The Tropical Salad at Papas Tapas…try it. You’ll love it.
I adore Five Spice. Just great tasting food.
Grand Luxe is always a fun time. Best fried pickles around.
Pizza Craft in Fort Lauderdale was a fun outing for me and my buddy Chuck Halberg. Great calamari, good thin pizza and very nice servers.
We are big fans of Baciami in Boynton Beach which is owned by the Pellegrini family who live in Delray. They also own Il Bacio and Prime.
If you venture north to their beautiful restaurant don’t miss the chicken rollatini, eggplant and if you really want to indulge they have the best NY style cheesecake which is homemade.
Interesting to see the legendary Tom’s Place BBQ open a store in the Boynton Beach Mall.
Beer Trade Company in Delray is underrated. It’s a relaxing hangout with good food and a vast array of beer choices. Some good ciders too.
Heartland Rock
We had a chance to catch the legendary BoDeans when they played the Broward Performing Arts Center last month.
The band, well known in the 80s and 90s, still sounds great.
They should have been bigger.
Check them out on Spotify. We recommend “Idaho”, “Still the Night”, “Stay On” and “Closer to Free” as a primer. If you love rock, this Wisconsin based band will hook you.
Enjoyed The Spy on Netflix.
The true story of Israeli spy Eli Cohen was riveting and featured a great performance by Sacha Baron Cohen in a very different role for him.
My dad had a book on Eli Cohen when I was a kid and I often found myself picking it up and delving into the story and photos. Don’t miss it.
Really pleased to see Boca based fitness drink Celsius take off.
It was an eventful month for the Nasdaq traded company. The company purchased Finland based Func Foods for $25mm and also introduced a BCAA line of drinks that will be out soon and available on Amazon and at fine retailers.
The company that I work for is the largest shareholder in Celsius and I’m a former COO of the company. We are very proud of their growth and their talented team. The future is very bright.
Congrats to The Arts Garage for their fine work and for being recognized by the School District for their art education efforts. Marjorie Waldo is a rock star.
This from the Delray Parks and Recreation Department:
“Sending a big congratulations to our one and only Senovain Stephens. Delray Beach born and raised, from living in Frog Alley to graduating from Atlantic High School, he knows Delray like the back of his hand. He started with us in 1993 and worked his way up the ladder earning him a promotion from Assistant Parks Superintendent to THE Parks Superintendent!  Congratulations Senovain!!”
Rock Star Energy Drink founder Russell Weiner is selling his Delray Beach home and it can be yours for only $36.5 million.
Sounds like a bargain.
The mansion does have six bedrooms, a 12 car garage, a tennis court and a pool with a water slide.
Weiner purchased the home for $11.6 million in 2009.
Now that’s appreciation.
Finally,
The Delray Chamber of Commerce announced that Stephanie Immelman has taken the permanent position of CEO.
Stephanie said, “I’m proud of what this new team and I have already accomplished the past four months. Our new hires, Angelica Vasquez and Kristopher Fisher, are already making waves, membership has increased dramatically, and the Chamber has re-engaged in a big way with the Delray community. We can’t wait to do more,”.
The selection of Ms. Immelman caps a search process focused on selecting a results-driven leader to drive change management, mission fulfillment, and operational outcomes to maximize the value the Chamber provides to its membership. The choice was made after the search committee considered the qualifications and experience of over 240 qualified applicants.
“After an extensive search for a new CEO of the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, we are pleased to have selected Stephanie Immelman,” said Bill Branning, Chairman. “Stephanie has an energetic leadership style. This combined with experience in non-profit and for-profit management positions makes Stephanie uniquely qualified to lead the Delray Chamber.”
You may know Stephanie Immelman as the former Executive Director of the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative but she has extensive business experience at Fortune 500 companies both in the US and Europe. She has held senior marketing positions at Continental Airlines and AT&T and worked in the corporate finance department of Global Crossing focusing on international mergers and acquisitions.
We wish her well.
Have a great October.

The Magic Of BRIC

Boca Economic Development Director Jessica Del Vecchio, Body Details CEO Claudio Sorrentino and Celsius CEO John Fieldly talk business at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus.

 

It had been many years since I had visited the old IBM campus in Boca Raton.

I had forgotten how big it was and what a large role it had played in the economic life of Southern Palm Beach County.

At its height, more than 10,000 IBMers worked on the picturesque campus and down Congress Avenue in Delray in the Arbors buildings.
It was a remarkable era.

Those memories came flooding back when I attended an event last week at the site which is now known as BRIC for Boca Raton Innovation Campus.
Crocker Partners has poured millions of dollars into the campus and it looks magnificent.
The effort has been hugely successful attracting a slew of companies to the campus including Modernizing Medicine and Vitacost which is now owned by Kroger.
It’s impressive.

I was at BRIC to root for my friend John Fieldly, the CEO of Celsius, a company that my company is heavily invested in. John was on a panel of health care entrepreneurs which included the chief Medical Officer of MDVIP, the chief marketing officer of Vitacost and the CEO of Body Details, a high growth laser hair and skin rejuvenation company.

The panel discussion was moderated by Boca Economic Development Director Jessica Del Vecchio and she led a fascinating discussion on workplace culture, marketing, growth and where the health space is going.

Jessica is a rock star, truly a next level economic developer. Boca is very lucky to have her. Her small office gets big results. She knows how to sell Boca.

At the networking breakfast before the panel, I had a chance to catch up with another friend Pete Martinez, the former IBM site executive, who is now involved in several promising artificial intelligence companies.
Pete reminded me of the site’s legacy. Boca is where the PC was invented but it’s also the birthplace of tech that launched robotics, data analytics, AI and so much more. Boca IP can be found in cellphones, ATM’s and so many more pieces of our daily lives. It’s quite a legacy and it was cool to hear Pete’s pride in the legacy of the location.

It’s also cool to see BRIC and Crocker Partners extend that legacy.

Boca is remarkable when you think about it.
Sure you hear the knocks, but the city aspires, there’s a lot of business happening there, a lot of technology, education, finance and cutting edge medicine too.
The Boca Raton Innovation Campus and its event series is a welcome and needed addition to our local economy.
I can’t wait to go back. And I urge you to visit if you have a chance.

Things We Loved In August

Things We Loved in August

Hawkers
Good to see a new restaurant coming to the long vacated space that used to house Sonoma on East Atlantic Avenue.
Hawkers, which features southeast Asian street food, looks awfully  interesting. Can’t wait to try it.
Coco Part 1
Some great photos on social media of Delray tennis sensation Coco Gauff and her family meeting Michelle Obama.
The meeting occurred after Coco competed in the Citi Open in Washington D.C. She won the doubles title with Caty McNally. Her first WTA title.  Pretty impressive. Oh and she made the cover of Teen Vogue too. Not to mention a cover story in USA Today and an appearance on Good Morning America. And a first grand slam singles win on the stadium court  at the U.S. Open.
 Not a bad month.
Mazel Tov
Congratulations to Dupree and Janay Jackson on their wedding. We wish this special couple health and happiness now and forever. They are doing great things in Delray.
Movies around town
We saw “Echo in The Canyon” at the Living Room Theater and it was in a word: wonderful.
The documentary , starring and executive produced by Jakob Dylan, is a loving look back at the amazing music produced by denizens of Laurel Canyon in Southern California in the 60s.
The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Beach Boys, Mamas and The Papas, The Association and Crosby Still Nash are among the musical giants celebrated in the film.
Interviews with Michelle Phillips, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Lou Adler and Eric Clapton add color to the timeless music covered by Dylan, Fiona Apple, Jade, Norah Jones, Beck and others.
It’s truly terrific. A can’t miss if you love classic rock.
Another cant miss is David Crosby: Remember My Name also at the Living Room.
Produced by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) Remember My Name is an unflinching look at Crosby’s life, loves, addictions and broken friendships. It’s powerful and honest but leaves you with more questions than answers.
We also saw The Art of Racing in the Rain. It was wonderful. But bring a box of tissues. You will need it. A must see for dog lovers and those who cherish a good story, well told.
Also outstanding: Blinded By The Light. The feel good movie of the summer.
Caridad
Kudos to the Caridad Center. The nonprofit’s “Back to School Bash” provided 1,000 Deserving Children with Much-Needed School Supplies.
Well done.
A Promising Debut & Other Restaurant Doings
We checked out the new Elisabetta’s on Atlantic Avenue and it was worth the wait.
Located in the former space occupied by the classic 32 East, Elisabetta’s is an Italian restaurant with a huge menu, two bars, a gorgeous terrace, great pasta and truly special pizza.
The restaurant is very beautiful, the build out is really something to see.
We continue to be impressed by the Driftwood on US 1 in Boynton Beach.
Excellent service and an innovative menu makes for a very good experience.
The short rib is as good as I’ve ever had.
Check it out. Don’t miss the yuca tots, they are delicious.
 
ER Bradley’s remains a favorite. 
The West Palm Beach staple is always fun and we like that it’s dog friendly. 
The Impossible Burger is on the menu and the pretzel bread is always a treat. 
We wish Rick Jankee smooth sailing upon his retirement from Delray’s legendary Sail Inn.
Rick sold the sail after 30 years of running one of Delray’s favorite local bars.
So many memories. So many good times. Thanks Rick!
Brule is such a special restaurant. Despite the construction across the street, it was crowded when we went to enjoy a recent lunch.
The chicken parm panini, truffle fries, greens and chicken meatballs are just out of this world.
Welcome to the Ave!
The Wine Room opened this month. Haven’t been over there yet, but the photos online look great and they run a great store in Winter Park.
We had a great happy hour/ dinner with friends at the always wonderful Papas Tapas. With construction on The Ray closing off one lane of traffic it’s important we support the businesses affected on Pineapple Grove.
More Coco.
Coco Gauff is not just showing athletic prowess she’s showing class and leadership too.
The budding tennis star surprised students at The Village Academy on the first day of school with an impromptu visit.
Very cool move.
Boca Eco Dev
Boca keeps landing  new business headquarters.
FlexShoppers will expand by 200 jobs as it consolidates locations under one roof.
Jessica Del Vecchio, Boca‘s Economic development director is a rockstar.
Happy Birthday Bill
Finally, happy birthday to Bill Branning.
Bill who chairs our chamber of commerce has been an invaluable contributor to Delray chairing Old School Square, serving on city advisory boards and on the CRA while running a great local business- BSA Corp.
We were thrilled to celebrate his birthday with friends and family.
Have a great month and stay safe during Dorian.

Assessing iPic

The story of iPic in Delray is a long and complicated one.

So let’s sit for a spell and unpack a little of it because it’s important to try and understand.

The CRA board chose iPic over three other proposals in August 2013. That was six years ago.

Ipic’s winning bid promised a theater and office space on land that once housed the library and the Chamber of Commerce.

But the history of that RFP goes back even further than 2013.

I was on the commission in the early 2000s when we moved forward with a complicated transaction to move the chamber and library and free up the land for redevelopment. The goal was to give the chamber and library new and better facilities replacing what had become dilapidated buildings.

Both of those goals were achieved—with the chamber occupying beautiful space under the Old School Square Parking Garage and the library occupying larger space on West Atlantic Avenue. The library’s board believed that the library would better serve the needs of the community on West Atlantic.

We agreed.

It was not an easy decision and it was not without controversy either.

I remember hearing from residents who didn’t want the library to move to the West Atlantic corridor. One citizen put it bluntly: “why would you put the library out there with those people?”

Yep, that was said.

It just made us want to move it more.

Still, the transaction was a complicated one since the Chamber had a lot of years left on a very sweet lease and there were a lot of moving parts and entities involved.

But it got done, because that was an era where people were able to work together. I sure miss those days.

Once the deal was struck,  an RFP was issued and awarded to a group that envisioned a mixed use project and a hotel. But the Great Recession hit and the deal never got off the ground. Eventually, the CRA issued a new RFP and that led to the iPic deal.

It should be noted that CRA staff liked the iPic bid, but did not rank it first. There was another theater concept—an European style theater if I remember correctly—that they ranked ahead of iPic.

But once the Boca-based iPic was chosen, the CRA staff embraced the concept and worked to make it happen.

The proposal sparked controversy—as so many projects do—over concerns about traffic, design and parking. Those are the usual bugaboos—all understandable.

Mix in personalities, ancient feuds, politics, misinformation and the difficulty of getting things done and it took nearly six years from awarding the RFP to opening night. When iPic won the deal the expected opening date was 2016—it took twice that long.

It seems like the entire town showed up for the grand opening party which may have been the best party Delray has ever seen.

The reviews were mostly glowing—the building was next level beautiful, with living walls of plants, striking art work and plush seating.

The office space—still in the process of being leased—is also beautiful and much needed in our downtown to complement and diversify our abundance of food and beverage options.

Since then, I’ve been to iPic twice. Most of my friends have gone as well— a time or two.

We tend to agree—it’s a good experience but very expensive and not something we see ourselves doing regularly and many of us are movie fans who go frequently.

That said, I supported iPic and hoped the concept would succeed creating a new use downtown and adding jobs to our city since there were promises—albeit sometimes vague ones– to move their corporate headquarters here. It’s important for cities to be business friendly and to have good economies. That doesn’t mean compromising your ethics, selling your soul or offering back breaking incentives. But it does mean hanging an “open for business” sign at your City Hall and being reasonable. It also means welcoming debate.

That said,  I and many others were disappointed in the tone of the debate surrounding iPic.

And while I sympathized with the views and concerns of opponents, I thought more than a few crossed the line with personal attacks on those who supported the project. I also thought some elected officials pushed it by supporting the use but adding costly conditions (outside the scope of the RFP) making it more difficult to succeed.

I felt so bad about the treatment, that I invited iPic CEO Hamid Hashemi to lunch to tell him that despite the vitriol Delray was a nice place and many people wished him and his company success.

So when the news broke last week that iPic missed an interest payment on over $200 million in debt and may have to consider bankruptcy it stirred a lot of emotions. This week, bankruptcy became the path and iPic will operate as usual until it either restructures or is sold.

There was the usual chorus of “I told you so’s” and a slew of people wishing the company ill will which I think is wrong.

Do we really want to see a company fail? Do we want to see an empty building in the heart of our downtown? Do we want to see iPic staff lose their jobs because management loaded the company up with debt?

I don’t think so.

You know who should be mad?
iPic shareholders who have seen their stock plummet.

The retired teachers who depend on their Alabama pension fund also have a right to be angry and concerned since they funded a large chunk of that debt.

And yes, citizens of Delray are justified in feeling disappointed. Our downtown’s real estate is precious. It’s not a good feeling to see a high profile project threatened.

The initial financial blogs quoted iPic as saying sales dipped as a result of the government shut down earlier this year. That really doesn’t pass the smell test.

Round two explanations made more sense: iPic was a trendsetter but other chains are loading up on the luxury too—often at lower ticket prices. So there’s competition in an industry being disrupted by streaming services. Add crushing debt to that equation and all the innovation in the world or the biggest rooftop bar won’t save you.

Still, many people in this community supported the downtown iPic. I did.

While pricey, we liked the idea of another use in the downtown and we liked the idea of Class A office space and a corporate headquarters too.

We liked that iPic offered corporate event space, special events and unique programming through partnerships with entities such as Netflix. We trusted their projections and studies that showed that this market could support an iPic so close to the Mizner Park location.

We liked that business publications were featuring the company and that it was able to go public and was considered an innovator in its space.

So seeing it fall into bankruptcy is no reason to celebrate.

This is where strong communities come together and make lemonade out of lemons. I hope and trust we will do just that.

So what can we learn from this?

iPic Delray has not struggled because of parking or traffic woes.

The local theater was not challenged because downtown Delray isn’t strong enough to support the use.

Clearly, the business model is deeply flawed.

But other chains are managing to figure it out.

Living Room Theater at FAU regularly sells out offering offbeat, independent and foreign fare.

Alamo Drafthouse and other innovative chains seem to be doing well and drawing crowds.

I hope iPic finds a good strong buyer with solid vision and a healthy balance sheet. I also hope the Alabama teachers don’t get crushed in the process. That one might be tough…

It would be great if the Class A office space that was built gets leased and brings much needed jobs to our city.

Regardless, whatever happens we should find ways to work together to pick up the pieces and make this a success somehow, someway. That’s what strong towns do.

What a concept, huh?

 

 

 

Unhappy New Yorkers

High Taxes.

Lousy weather.

Outrageous cost of living.

Those are the first three lines you see when you click on the website http://www.unhappynewyorkers.com .

There’s testimonials from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extolling Florida’s tax advantages and a quote from AOC’s mom saying she moved to the Sunshine State to save money on her property tax bills.

The website is actually a clever marketing piece for Downtown Doral as well as a smack down of the Empire State.

There’s even a downloadable “resignation” letter that goes like this: Dear (Family Member or Friend’s Name):

 

New York is no longer for me. After careful thought and consideration, I’ve officially decided to leave the Big Apple to move to the true apple of my eye: Downtown Doral in Florida.

 

This may not come as a surprise to you–I’m not the only New Yorker who agrees with Mayor Cuomo that Florida is an attractive option for those unhappy with the change in the tax law. In fact, many of our friends and neighbors have already made the move to Florida. I know you won’t question my decision as it’s no secret that New York has the most expensive properties in the nation, our taxes are becoming more burdensome and Mother Nature has only grown more relentless.

 

With the money I will save on taxes and cost of living, I can stop dreaming about paradise and actually live in it. I’ve found a luxurious, urban home at Downtown Doral just steps from some of the best schools, eateries and boutiques in South Florida. Plus, I’m just minutes from the white-sand beaches of Miami. I’m ready to welcome the warm climate, diverse culture and engaging lifestyle of Doral without feeling like all my money is going to taxes!

 

Please continue to stay in touch, and when you’re ready to find tax relief, you can join me in Downtown Doral. Just visit DowntownDoral.com to help you find your new dream home.”

 

Brilliant.

And mostly true, I suppose; although July and August in Florida is no picnic.

Still, as a native and proud New Yorker I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about a website trashing my ancestral homeland.

Thirty-two years ago last week I made the move to Florida driving a 1978 Toyota that was spitting water out of the air conditioner. I drove that Corolla 24 hours to my best friend’s parent’s condo in the Inverrary section of Lauderhill.

There was no doubt in my mind that I had found paradise. Of course, my definition of paradise in 1987 was a pool, a tennis court, bagel shops everywhere, a beach, sunshine and a job writing for a newspaper covering Delray Beach and Boca Raton. Come to think of it, that definition still works.

I would later live—albeit briefly—downwind from a landfill in Coconut Creek next to a guy named “Ace” who told me not to feed the turkey vultures that hovered over our condo quad. (I hadn’t intended to).

By 1988 I made my way to Delray Beach where I have been ever since.

I don’t regret leaving New York, but there are times when I do miss it, even though I doubt I would ever move back. If I did win the lottery I would consider a home on Long Island and would definitely spring for a Manhattan condo—something overlooking Central Park with season tickets to the Yankees and Mets and a box at the U.S. Open.

All of this is to say that New York is not so bad. It’s actually pretty wonderful and believe it or not there are a lot of friendly people there too and yes a few who may have missed charm school including the poor guy who went viral a few weeks back after losing it at a bagel shop. (Google it, its wild).

Still, as a fan of clever and edgy marketing, I applaud unhappynewyorkers.com. Downtown Doral looks interesting despite the traffic, heat and distance from those white sandy beaches.

As noted in an earlier blog, demographers are expecting that Florida will be getting more than its fair share of northeast transplants as the tail end of the Baby Boom roars toward retirement.

I know that has some people worried, but not me.

One thing you learn growing up in New York is how to roll with whatever life hands you.