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.

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.

 

 

 

It’s Simple Math

Ken Gronbach is often asked by Fortune 100 companies to predict the future. He does through the power of demography.

There’s a tsumani coming to Florida and we are not prepared for it.

Those were the startling words we heard last week from a well-known demographer at Leadership Florida’s annual meeting at the Grand Floridian in Orlando.

The “tsunami” refers to a wave of people who will be heading to the Sunshine State in the coming years to seek tax relief, better weather and quality of life, according to demographer Ken Gronbach, an expert who is often hired by Fortune 100 companies to predict trends based on population and other factors that drive sales and lifestyle decisions.

Grombach is bullish on Florida but he also cautions that the state has no idea what’s about to happen and is deficient in a number of areas including housing. We just don’t have enough to serve the needs of the people who will be seeking a new life in Florida.

Interestingly, it’s not the “millennials” who will be driving growth but the tail end of the baby boom generation —those born between the late 50s and 1964 that will be fueling the growth.

“You don’t need a crystal ball,” Gronbach told Leadership Florida, a non-profit that consists of community leaders from throughout the state. “It’s simple math. We can predict people’s behavior based on their age and by looking at the Census we can know the size of the market that’s coming.”
So what does that mean?
Well…

Florida’s will explode (with people)

Bigotry will end (future generations are free of bias)

China, Japan and Russia have big demographic problems that they cannot avoid.

China’s economy will implode (their one-child policy was a big blunder)

Europe will be forever changed (immigration will change its character)

Funerals will double (the party will end for boomers)

Marijuana will be bigger than wheat (Cheech and Chong were right)

“We can accurately forecast what’s next based on the rise and fall of populations,” he says. “But it’s often missed by smart people who don’t recognize the power of demography.”

Now this may sound a little depressing, but if you see Gronbach he’ll tell you that’s it not.

“I can’t see a single number that worries me,” he says talking about the United States. “We won’t run out of food or room…the future is bright.”
In fact, one of his most provocative statements is that he does not foresee a recession anytime within the next 20 years because of population growth and trends.

But, if you’re someone who is disturbed by growth, Florida may not be the place for you.

In fact, in our own little world we are seeing some interesting growth trends. According to the Census, Boca has reached a milestone of 100,000 people and Delray is now around 70,000 people. Both cities have experienced double digit growth since the last Census in 2010, Boca at about 18 percent and Delray at about 14 percent.

And according to Gronbach we have only just begun.

“I live in Florida half the time—and if you go in-season the elderly in Florida range from 75- to 95-years-old. Boomers right now are 54 to 73, so they aren’t even there yet.”

But they are just off shore and they are descending on Florida “like locusts.”

Let’s let Mr. Gronbach explain: “What is going to happen is you have a tsunami offshore because the people, the generation right in front of the boomers, which is called the “silent generation,” they were born 1925 to 1944 and there are just over 50 million of them that were born in the U.S., with no immigration during their start up and even during their tenure. That would further have complemented their generation. But, instead, they are tiny, the smallest generation of the last 100 years.

So people ask me, what is going to be influenced by the boomers? And, I say whatever is going to happen, whatever these people consume, whatever senior citizens consume, be it health care or elder care or death care [i.e., funeral homes, etc.], or cruises or whatever, will be dramatically enhanced by the boomer generation of 80 million people. They are right offshore. It is coming, people have been lulled into thinking that it has already hit, and it has not. The boomers will change anything and everything. It does not matter, there are so many of them it will be a case of rising tides lift all boats.”

According to Gronbach, we will be 25 million housing units short in the United States as the children of Boomers begin to move out of their parents homes.

Not part of his presentation– but certainly a factor– were the changes recently made to the tax code which limits the deduction of state and local taxes on our federal income tax. States such as New York, New Jersey, California and Connecticut are seeing an exodus of tax burdened residents to places such as Florida and Texas.

It is estimated that luxury properties in Florida cost a third less than comparable properties in New York, a stat that savvy developers are beginning to explore and exploit.

Ultimately, Gronbach’s presentation is a very positive one for the United States especially as we ramp up our competition with China, whose one child policy he describes as the single greatest demographic blunder of all time because it has created an aging society that cannot take of its young or old.

But like everything, growth has its plusses and minuses, especially if we don’t prepare.

At some point, we have to address traffic and congestion issues, infrastructure, climate change (mysteriously absent from his presentation) and a host of other concerns. We also have to address land use and have an intelligent conversation about how to limit sprawl which creates traffic and burdens our fragile environment.

Still, Gronbach’s “math” makes for intriguing discussion. We ignore the numbers at our own peril. It’s simple math.

 

 

 

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!