Restaurants and Nightlife in Delray Beach and Boca Raton

When it comes to restaurants and nightlife few cities can compare to Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Delray Beach was recently named the “Most Fun Town” in America by the Travel Channel and Rand McNally as a result of its incredible restaurant scene and vibrant downtown night life.

Atlantic Avenue has to be experienced to be believed. Very few streets in America have block after block of amazing restaurants, shops, galleries and nightclubs that appeal to all ages. Safe, with ample parking, downtown Delray ends at the ocean and is considered one of the finest Main Streets in America.

Boca Raton is also home to scores of incredible restaurants and has its own vibrant nightlife along Palmetto Park Road and in its renowned Mizner Park.

Things We Loved In November

Frances Bourque is a legend…and we love her.

Things we loved In November
Great to see children’s advocate and all around good guy Jack Levine featured as an “Icon” In November’s Florida Trend.
I got to know Jack thanks to our mutual involvement in Leadership Florida. He’s a frequent visitor to Boca and Delray and we’ve had some memorable dinners on the Avenue.
Jack is a prolific writer and shares his essays via email. He’s the founder of the 4Gen Institute which studies how our society now features four generations: children, parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
Being featured as an Icon is a fitting honor.

Also in Florida Trend, Delray’s own Felicia Hatcher who is featured in an article spotlighting women leaders.
Felicia is the founder of Code Fever, Black Tech Week and is a gifted entrepreneur.

The Boys

Dinner with my sister in law in Delray’s Country Manors. I love Country Manors. Something about it.
I also love my sister in law’s pasta and meatballs from The Boys.

Congratulations to George Elmore the 2018 American Free Enterprise Medalist. The nationally recognized medal is awarded by Palm Beach Atlantic University on American Free Enterprise Day which is Nov. 8.
Well done.

Happy birthday to a special friend

Happy birthday and thank you to Debbie Smith Stackhouse.
We enjoyed attending your party at the lovely Seagate Yacht Club but mostly we love having you in our lives.

The Kominsky Method and The Bodyguard on Netflix make us marvel at the quality of TV these days. BRAVÒ.

Don’t miss Bohemian Rhapsody and make sure to see it on the big screen.
The music is outstanding and the performances are amazing.
We saw it at Frank’s Theatre at the Delray Marketplace and the sound was excellent.

Delray is a tennis town

It was nice to see Delray’s Kevin Anderson playing in the year end ATP World Tour Finals consisting of the world’s best players.
A past Delray Open champ, Anderson held his own with the likes of Federer and Nadal reaching the semifinals. Very cool.
Speaking of the Delray Open connection long time tournament participants Jack Sock and Mike Bryan won the doubles event cementing their claim on being the top doubles duo in the world.

On a sad note, we mark the passing of Linda Lieberman.
Linda was a devoted volunteer and gave a lot to junior tennis in Delray.
I will always remember Linda for her work with the Delray Tennis Patrons and for always being there to greet fans at the Delray Open where she could be found every year selling programs.
She was a bright light who will be missed.

We were happy to welcome back Fran Marincola and Kim Thomas after their 78 day adventure traveling across the United States in an RV.
We missed you guys but loved the daily updates on social media.

Captain Fantastic

Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour was sensational.
Glad we saw the legend at BB&T before he retires from the road.
It’s also cool to see that our young friends (Lyle and Marisa) appreciate the music of the baby boomer generation. It makes us old folks feel good.

Congratulations Frances Bourque

Maybe the best news we received all month was when we got a letter from University of Florida President Kent Fuchs naming our very own Frances Bourque as a winner of the “Distinguished Achievement Award.”
The award is one of the most prestigious given by UF and honors people for exceptional leadership.
We can’t think of anyone more deserving. For those who don’t know, Frances founded Old School Square and is largely responsible for a whole lot of good in Delray.  A group of Frances’ biggest fans wrote letters of recommendation after prompting by Frances’ sister.
It was nice to see the effort pay off.
She will receive her award at a future commencement.
So cool!

See you next month! Thanks for reading and enjoy the holiday season.

October Musings & Memories

Happy Halloween!
October loves

Lunch at the Cuban Cafe with two leaders I admire: Pastor Bill Mitchell and Karen Granger of 4 Kids.
Pastor Mitchell produces the terrific Boca Lead series which in October featured the incredible work of Simon Sinek. If you want to be a better leader this is the community to explore.
Taking the dogs to Lake Ida Park in the evening when it is finally cool and there’s the hint of a breeze. The best part of the year is nearly here.
Fresh Kitchen and Bolay–both in Boca are terrific.
So good. Every time.
The recently remodeled Delray Elks Club looks great. Terrific job and some really nice people are members.
Bagels With and Bagels with a Schmear are also so darn good…oy the carbs…
Delray Beach author and poet Letit Flose is making some noise.
Her original poem, “It’s We,” has been selected to appear in A Garden Of Black Joy: Global Poetry From The Edges of Liberation & Living! 
 
They received poems from all over the world – from Cape Town South Africa to New Orleans to Berlin, Germany and rigorously selected 114 poems to be included in this year’s anthology.
Very impressive. Amazon has her two books of poetry. Highly recommend both.
Deepest condolences to the Walsh family on the loss of Tom Walsh, patriarch of the family that founded and runs Ocean Properties.
OPL has significant holdings in Delray including the Delray Marriott and Residence Inn.
The company has properties throughout North America.
Delray’s own Tre’ Quan Smith was on the receiving end of the historic pass from New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees that set the new record for career passing yards.
Brees has now passed for nearly 41 miles—astounding.
We’ve written about Tre’ Quan before. His involvement with Delray Students First, now College Bound, his attending Village Academy etc.
His NFL career is off to a stellar start.
Here’s what future Hall of Famer Brees had to say about his rookie teammate.
“Tre’ Quan stepped in and did a magnificent job. Credit to him for the way he has come along here in his rookie season. Really made a ton of progress each and every week, especially the last couple weeks this kid can really be a big part of our offense.”
That’s high praise from an NFL legend. Wow!
We lost two other local icons/contributors in October.
Detective Kenny Herndon passed away and it was gratifying to see an outpouring of love and support on social media from an array of retired Delray police officers. He was very special.
Bob Miller, a long time leader in the city’s business and sports community also passed in October.
Miller Field is named after Bob who did a lot for Atlantic High School sports and Little League baseball. He was a long time leader at the Chamber of Commerce and ran a very successful State Farm Insurance agency on Federal Highway for decades. Just a great guy.
Both Mr. Miller and Sgt. Herndon will be missed.
I wanted to share a tribute to Mr. Miller written by Bill Wood, our former chamber president and another amazing guy. Bill shared this on Facebook so I don’t think he will mind if I share these wonderful sentiments.
“Over the last several decades Delray Beach has been blessed with an amazing group of remarkable men and women who provided wisdom and guidance to the development of our city.
Sadly we just lost one of those remarkable leaders…
Bob Miller.  Bob passed away this October and even though we have not talked in years I already miss him and his stories of growing up in Delray Beach.
Hopefully there are biographies popping up on Facebook about Bob’s life  that will outline his many contributions to our city.
In simple words Bob was (among other things) a husband, father, teacher, coach, fisherman, businessman (over 40 years) and leader in the community… there is a reason for the name “Bob Miller Little League Park”.
The people who helped make Delray an outstanding community were not all Mayors or City Commissioners… most were residents, business folks, remarkable individuals who loved our city, believed in it and wanted to make it better…
The Chamber of Commerce recently held one of it’s Leadership Programs featuring several of our past Delray Beach Mayors.  Jeff Perlman (a former Mayor), in the most recent installment of ‘Your Delray Boca’ wrote about that and towards the end of his blog Jeff said this… “We need people with passion, a love for the town, humility, emotional intelligence, strength, foresight and courage to step up and lead.”
We do need people with those attributes but… we have been blessed by having former leaders, like Bob Miller, who had the passion, the love, humility, intelligence, strength, foresight, and courage to be a leader in our great community over a long period of time.
I am so grateful for remarkable men (and women) like Bob Miller who collectively made Delray Beach – as the Chamber saying goes – a great place to live, work, and play.”
Other highlights: an evening at the Elks (congratulations on their award from the Chamber).
We discovered Prosper Ice Cream on Congress Avenue. Magnificent.
And we also enjoyed some great pizza with a stagiano salad at Renzo’s. Highly recommended.
If you can don’t miss “The Old Man And The Gun” Robert Redford’s farewell to acting. He’s terrific, as he always is and so is Sissy Spacek. Two old pro’s who transcend the screen. It’s worth a visit to the theatre.

In Praise Of The Local Food Scene

Caffe Luna Rosa has thrived for decades by keeping pace with trends and sticking to the classics.

So I have this theory that I thought I would share.
My theory has to do with food—in particular restaurants—and my feeling is that we are experiencing a golden age of culinary talent.
We live in a community that seemingly has an endless array of truly unique and wonderful restaurants.
It wasn’t always this way.

When I moved to South Florida 31 years ago it was not uncommon for us to travel to Miami and Fort Lauderdale to find a good restaurant.
These days, Delray and Boca offers a dizzying array of special restaurants that not only serve great food but also take their design seriously. Dining has become an experience. And when done well it’s really something to behold.

I’m writing this a few days after finally experiencing The Grove, a highly touted restaurant in Delray’s Pineapple Grove neighborhood.
I’ve been hearing friends rave about The Grove for quite some time so I was curious to see if what they were saying was true.
It was.

The food was sensational, so was the service and the interior design.

The menu was small but offered some really inventive dishes that were spectacularly prepared.
My friends ordered pasta—that was perfectly cooked, short ribs that looked magnificent and I had crusted chicken that was so flavorful and unique that I find it hard to describe.
Even the bread was extraordinary.

The night before I had dinner with another friend at one of my favorite neighborhood spots—Papas Tapas where I never fail to have a great meal.

Brule, Caffe Luna Rosa, City Oyster, Tramonti—the list of Delray delights just goes on and on.

Boca  also  has so many wonderful spots: Domus, Abe and Louie’s, New York Prime etc.
In an age where chefs have become celebrities and dining out has become a cultural experience I’m surprised that Delray-Boca doesn’t have a bigger reputation as a foodie destination.
Sure, Atlantic Avenue and places like Mizner Park are popular attractions but I think we have the potential to be a national food destination.

So what’s holding us back?

We have many great restaurants and more than a few talented chefs, but there’s a few holes to fill and opportunities to seize.
First, we can use a little more diversity in our repertoire.
More ethnic offerings—like you’d see in a bigger city. And I’m not just talking niche food offerings, there’s a puzzling lack of great Chinese restaurants in our local market. Southern cuisine would be another great hit and seems to be somewhat lacking in our marketplace.

We can also use more culinary education to develop and nurture talent for the industry.
In addition, the industry can use some good old fashioned PR.
There’s no reason we can’t be known and branded as a great culinary destination like Charleston, Traverse City and Asheville which would drive more innovation, jobs and tourism.
We’ve come a long way since the 80s—it will be interesting to see what comes next for our local food industry.

Things We Loved in September

Paul Simon: Still crazy (and now retired from touring) after all these years.

September loves

Seeing Paul Simon’s farewell tour at the BB&T.

Artists like Paul Simon are rare…poets, musicians, whose words and music define our culture and leave an indelible mark. We felt privileged to be there. He played all the classics and some of the new gems too.

Happy hour at Senor Burrito and running into the wonderful Trish Jacobson.

Boca Lead’s new season with the amazing Pastor Mitchell. The topic: “Difficult Conversations” in front of a record crowd. Amazing program. Check it out. I’m beginning October by having lunch with the Pastor and another one of my favorites: Karen Granger.

Seeing the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary and Juliet, Naked at Cinemark Boca.

Meeting the wonderful team at 4 Kids a great job-profit that’s coming to Delray. They already serve our kids now they will have a physical presence at The Arbors in Delray.

Lunch and laughter at Papas Tapas  with Ingrid Kennemer and Scott Porten. Very few know the Delray commercial real estate market as well as Ingrid.

The start of a new NFL season at Duffy’s with my best bud Scott Savodnik and Jason Spaide.

Seeing all of the Delray ATP stars excel at the US open. Marin Cilic, Juan Martin Del Potro (finalist), Kei Nishikori, one Bryan Brother and Frances Tiafoe all had great opens.
But the highlight was Delray’s own Coco Gauff winning the girls doubles title with Catherine McNally.

Breakfast at Boca’s venerable Tom Sawyer with a long time friend Sharon Patterson.

Lunch with some Delray greats at Cabana El Rey…

Viewing the “sizzle” reel for a new TV show featuring my friend Eric Roby, former Channel 12 anchor. Stay tuned, I think Eric’s got a winner.

Eating lunch at the bar of Madison’s in Boca. Great all day happy hour menu check it out.

David Byrne at the Fillmore. Wonderful show. Unique artist. While in South Beach check out Cibo and if you can make it a weekend we recommend a stay at the Marriott Stanton.

Sardinia Ristorante is a gem. Fresh mozzarella, a great bar, attentive service and unique food. A great addition.

The Abe and Louie Salad—hard to beat.

Jessica Del Vecchio, Boca’s economic development director is a great asset for her city. It’s a pleasure to partner with her as part of the Boca Newspaper.

Have a wonderful October!

Greetings From Asbury Park

The boardwalk in Asbury Park, N.J.

I’ve always wanted to go to Asbury Park.

So last week we made the trip.

We loved it.

As we toured Belmar, Ocean Grove, Asbury, Allenhurst, Freehold, Neptune and Colts Neck one thought was top of mind: New Jersey might have the world’s worst PR, because the reality far, far, far outstrips the perception.

New Jersey is breathtakingly beautiful (that’s right)  with a magnificent coast, incredible neighborhoods, vibrant cities and architecture that makes you pull over and stare.

Asbury Park has always held a place in my heart and  imagination thanks to its association with my musical heroes Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.

I’ve read a few books about the boom and bust history of Asbury Park and the musicians who helped to put the place on the map.

So I was curious to explore the tiny (1.5 square miles) city.

Asbury has a pretty boardwalk, a beautiful beach, some amazing seaside bars, wonderful architecture, a hip hotel, a really nice downtown and some terrific restaurants.

But what sets it apart is its vibe.

Asbury Park is a town that seems to be built on rock n’ roll.

From rock photographer Danny Clinch’s “Transparent Gallery” and the Sound Booth lounge at the Asbury Hotel to the live music at Asbury Lanes and the renowned Wonder Bar—music is everywhere.

This weekend, Asbury expects 20,000 people for the first Sea. Hear. Now. music festival with big names like Social Distortion and Brandi Carlile coming to town to rock the shore.

Asbury is a town building on its roots—its glory days as evidenced by the Paramount Theatre and a grand boardwalk and a musical heritage which includes Springsteen, Southside Johnny and so many great bar bands.

Off the boardwalk, we found a nice downtown, especially Cookman Avenue which featured some interesting retail (a bookstore!, an adorable cinema and a tea house featuring cats—yes cats—called Catsbury Park) and some amazing restaurants. (If you visit, run don’t walk to Taka, it’s as good as it gets).

The surrounding towns feature block after block of really beautiful homes, Victorian gems that make you realize that Florida missed a golden opportunity by allowing so much cookie cutter housing to be built.

When visiting a place it’s important to consider its history and to see what’s in front of you. But it’s also important to understand its psychology, what drives a place. It’s critical to understand not only the reality but what the aspirations of a place are.

You can do this by observing who’s in town—what kinds of people do you see buying homes, opening businesses and investing in a place.

You can supplement what you see with a little reading—local newspapers, real estate publications, even what the hotels are saying about the town in their marketing materials.

And that’s where Asbury gets really interesting.

This little city with a rich history and a very cool present has aspirations.

Asbury is an ambitious place with a goal of becoming a nationally renowned cultural mecca built around music, art, festivals, great restaurants and a sense of place. Sound familiar?

The local press celebrates this ambition with profiles of entrepreneurs building web businesses, opening bakeries, planning music festivals, opening unique restaurants and creating boutique accommodations that pay homage to the area’s history and vibe.

One of the urban pioneers that seems to loom large is famed rock photographer Danny Clinch who has a very cool gallery attached to the ultra-hip Asbury Hotel. Clinch is arguably the most acclaimed music photographer around these days. He has chosen Asbury Park to not only show off his incredible portfolio but also to grow the city’s cultural brand.

The Sea. Hear. Now. festival is probably the most ambitious attempt so far. But the gallery itself is more than just a gallery. It’s a live music space where the local creative community can meet, grow and find encouragement and an outlet.

In many ways, I saw some parallels between Asbury Park and Delray Beach circa 1980s through early 2000s.

The emphasis on culture, food, beverage, festivals, tourism, entrepreneurship. The aspiration and hunger to fix and invest in neighborhoods and commercial districts. The willingness to take some risks. The presence of visionary pioneers with dreams and ambitions. The passion to make something happen.

I can’t comment on the politics of Asbury. But the truth is you need both the private sector and the public sector rowing in the same direction to make change and realize ambitions. It doesn’t work if volunteers, business owners and residents are out of step with local government or vice versa.

Towns need their Danny Clinch’s for sure. But they also need their elected officials and city government’s help too.

 

 

 

 

Things We Loved In August: From Birthdays to Penne Pasta

Lt. Bobby Keating retired after a long and distinguished career at the Delray PD.

Things we liked August

Seeing Delray’s Coco Gauff  in the pages of Sports Illustrated which celebrated her becoming the youngest number one junior in the world at age 14.
The article also noted Coco’s desire to follow in Serena Williams’s footsteps and noted that both played at Delray’s Pompey Park.

Speaking of tennis..Delray Open champ Frances Tiafoe was also featured in SI as one of four future greats who may take the mantle from Federer, Nadal and company. Good to see. Tiafoe is coming back to Delray in 2019. The tournament is becoming known as the birth place of future stars.

The penne ala vodka at Domus in Boca Raton.

Happy hour at Che’

An amazing dinner at Apeiro with good friends at the Delray Marketplace.

A great article on Fifth Avenue Grill by one of my favorite writers Diane Feen in one my favorite paper the Delray Newspaper.

Catching up with my friend Yulia @ The Corner Porch.

Checking out the sea turtle hatchlings at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.

Seeing the magnificent documentary Three Identical Strangers at The Living Room Theatre.

Seeing Celsius on the shelf at Fresh Market.

Great to see Ethel Isaacs Williams | Senior Vice President, Development & Public Affairs, Kaufman Lynn Construction, in  Delray Beach chosen for Leadership Florida Class 37. As a proud member of Class 24, I can speak with confidence that Ethel is in for a great experience. Congratulations.

Meeting Alex Redfearn the bright new owner of CityWalk. That was a project I was thrilled to support back in the day. It transformed a key corner in Pineapple Grove and gave us Brule’ one of my favorite spots. Alex will do great things.

Thanks to Francis and his wonderful staff at La Cigale for hosting my birthday dinner. Thanks to Kim Thomas for sharing her special birthday with me and for including me in her formal party at the wonderful Pinball Museum.

What can we say about Jimmy Christe? Just a wonderful guy, who served his nation as a Navy diver (underwater demolition expert) and quietly served his city as one half of a fundraising team with our friend Chuck Halberg. The duo rode thousands of miles together on motorcycles raising money for local charities. We lost Jimmy (far too soon) in August. But we will never lose his memory. Rest easy my friend.
We also mourn the losses of Kevin McCarty, Alan Armour and Col. Bill Condry.
Kevin served on our CRA and chaired the South Florida Water Management District board among other civic endeavors .
Alan chaired Old School Square and was instrumental in securing the funding for the pavilion we all enjoy.
Colonel Condry was a dear man. After serving his country he served his city supervising Pompey Park, mentoring key city staff and always providing stellar leadership through the years.

Congratulations on a job well done to Lt. Bobby Keating who retired after 24 years of service to our police department. Just a great officer. He will be missed.

Congrats to Jeff Goldman on his new position as Assistant City Manager after a successful stint as Delray police chief.
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jeff since he was a very young police officer where he was generous enough to allow me to ride along when he was on the tact team which was tasked with cleaning up street level drug sales which were rampant in those days. Men and women like Jeff and Lt. Keating did much to enable Delray’s success. They deserve our thanks and gratitude.

Congratulations also to the great Patty Reed for her many years of service to our Chamber of Commerce. Patty always made you feel special and was such an integral part to making the Delray Chamber a warm and inviting organization.

Happy birthday to Pam Halberg. Another local star and lovely person. Chuck is a lucky man. And he knows it, which means he’s also a smart man.

Happy 90th birthday to Virginia Schmidt, mother of Mayor David Schmidt. We were honored to be on hand to celebrate the milestone at the Elks Club.

Last but most certainly not least, my wife Diane celebrated a birthday in August. She makes every day feel like my birthday.

Things We Liked in July

Fran Marincola was honored with a cake for 19 years of advisory board service in Delray…see item below.

Things we loved in July

Thanks Patty!

A fond farewell and a hearty thank you is owed Patty Reed who left the Delray Chamber to start a new chapter in Melbourne, Florida.
Patty was a wonderful asset to the Delray Chamber and will be missed by all. Her warmth, attention to detail and hard work was not lost on chamber members who always looked forward to seeing her at events and activities. We wish Patty all the best and thank her for a job extremely well done.

News & Notes

Kudos to Sardinia Enoteca in Delray. Great food, excellent service and an extensive wine list make this a welcome addition to the ‘off the avenue’ food scene. Don’t miss their eggplant. Magnificent.

Summer time can be a little dull if you don’t like blockbusters movies. Thank goodness for the Living Room Theatre at FAU in Boca. An oasis in a desert.

We finally tried the Foxworth Fountain at the new Delray Shores Pharmacy on U.S. 1. It was wonderful.
Great pressed sandwiches, cute counter, a real throwback.
We didn’t try the desserts or soda fountain, but that gives us a reason to return.

We will miss Uncle Tai’s. But wish the proprietors a happy retirement. 32 years of excellence. Bravo!

Enjoyed checking out the classic and historic Addison with my partner Marisa Herman. The corporate open house featured incredible food, pineapple mojitos and showcased the classic property which is ideal for special events and corporate parties. Check it out. The holidays are around the corner.

Enjoyed spending time with County Commission candidate Bob Weinroth during an informal discussion at my office. We brought some Delray people over to exchange ideas and share priorities. November is coming soon, but first we have a primary on August 28.  Make sure to vote. So many important races and ballot questions.

Enjoyed spending time with friends at Apeiro at the Delray Marketplace.
It’s a great place for large groups. Good food. Great Moscow mules and the best orrechiette I’ve had in a while.

Baja Cantina in Boca is a cute little joint smack dab on the tracks south of Glades Road. Good prices, delicious San Gria and the chips and salsa are wonderful.
We also discovered the Corner Porch in Delray after all these years. It’s wonderful. Great drinks, delicious food and an historic atmosphere. It’s becoming a favorite.

Finally, a heartfelt thanks to my dear friend Fran Marincola who wrapped up 19 years on Delray’s Parking Management Board in July.
I think it’s fair to say nobody knows more than Fran does about parking in Delray nor is more passionate about the issue.
Board service is essential, important and often thankless work. The volunteers who give their time are often unsung but hugely valuable to a successful city.
Fran did his part, which also includes a long stint on the Downtown Development Authority. He cares a whole lot of about his town and that’s really cool.
Until next month, have a great and safe August.

Complacency is a Killer

Wynwood Yards—wow!

Recently, Bisnow Media convened a panel devoted to the remarkable rise of Wynwood, a super cool neighborhood in Miami.

The panel consisted of developers, investors and others who have been instrumental in the revitalization of a tired neighborhood into a hip, tourist draw and arts center.

Their conclusion: zoning was the key to the neighborhood’s success.

According to Bisnow: “Fortis Design+Build Managing partner David Polinsky said when Wynwood started becoming a hot neighborhood with galleries and street art, he had looked at a tract behind Panther Coffee and bought it the next day — only to find there was nothing he could build on it.

 In 2013, he helped write a white paper that laid out three planning and zoning goals: relaxed parking requirements, zoning that would permit flexible uses such as residential and office and increased density for residential development.

 The Wynwood Business Improvement District, which represents more than 400 property owners, worked with the city of Miami and planning firm PlusUrbia and, in 2015, developed a Neighborhood Revitalization Plan, which called for 10-foot-wide sidewalks, the development of studio apartments under 650 SF and the establishment of a design review committee that would consider future projects. Eventually, the city passed eight ordinances that incorporated the changes.”

The changes created value that didn’t exist before. And the magic of those zoning changes is that the value didn’t cost the taxpayers a fortune. Unlike expensive incentives and tax abatements, increasing flexibility (especially for urban infill sites) is the best tool cities have to create value, attract investment and transform neighborhoods. Zoning beats costly incentives my friends.

But success has its challenges too.

While Wynwood has won international acclaim, rents have soared squeezing out the eclectic array of small businesses that made the neighborhood attractive to begin with. Rents are now said to be between $40 and $100 per square foot, that’s very pricey for independents. On nearby Lincoln Road which started losing independents in 1999 rents can be as high as $330 a square foot.

Locally, we have experienced a similar phenomenon.

When I moved to Delray in the late 80s, Atlantic Avenue rents were $6-8 a square foot. Adjusted for inflation that would be the equivalent of $13-$17 a square foot in 2018 numbers. But today rents are $50 to over $100 a square foot downtown. That’s a challenge. Fortunately, the Downtown Development Authority recognizes that there are issues and has engaged Robert Gibbs, a noted expert, to help navigate. The city would be wise to listen to Gibbs’ 43 page analysis which is available on the DDA website. I don’t agree with it all, but it’s fascinating reading.

Urban redevelopment is often the tale of revitalization and then hyper gentrification which ultimately squeezes the charm out of a place. While change is inevitable (even Charleston, S.C. has chain stores up and down its main drag) it doesn’t always have to mean doom and gloom. There are tools—rental assistance (which can be controversial), pop-up store opportunities to test ideas, retail incubators and small liner shops that can help promote authentic and independent uses.

But it isn’t easy. And you’re never done.

That was a mantra back when Atlantic Avenue was making the turn from “Dull Ray” to “America’s Most Fun Town.”

There’s always a chorus of people who will be saying it’s time move on and concentrate elsewhere once you find some success.

 But city building is never a zero sum binary game.

You can do many things at once—and you should: each part of your city deserves its own strategy and investment plan—but you’ll never be totally done. Success is never final and with it comes challenges; many unexpected.

Wynwood is at an inflection point. I would argue that downtown Delray Beach and east Boca is as well. Mind you, these are good problems to have. They certainly beat the alternative which is our “town is dead, what do we do?”

I drove Atlantic Avenue with my dogs on a recent Sunday evening. It was a hot steamy off season night and it was nice to see crowds of pedestrians and diners—people of all ages enjoying the avenue. I noticed some vacancy and I also noticed that our streets could be cleaner. But I also saw vibrancy, hard fought, hard to get and harder to keep vibrancy.

The dogs stuck their heads out the window to check it out and soak it in. It felt good and it’s something we should cherish and work together to keep.

The challenges are not unique, but the opportunities are very unique. Consider me grateful. There’s something cool about never being done. It allows all of us to be part of an ongoing story.

 

 

 

 

 

Things We Liked & Happy Birthday America

Life has been such a whirlwind that we forgot our list of things we liked in May.

So this post will include a round up for May and June, while wishing you a safe and happy Independence Day.

Dinner at Baciami, a great spot in Boynton, owned by a Delray resident with two great Boca/Delray people Perry and Diana Don Francisco. Great food, great service, awesome atmosphere. We went back with more friends in June. Highly recommended.

Delray Craft Beer Fest—especially the grapefruit beer. Some of my less evolved friends poke fun at my appreciation for “fruity” flavored beers. I say, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Catching the movie “Tully” starring the immensely talented Charlize Theron in a decidedly non glamorous part. Well written, a nice way to spend a rainy spring day. We also saw “Book Club” at Cinemark Boca. As we move well into our AARP years it is nice to see mature romance portrayed on the big screen. Diane Keaton remains as charming as she was in Annie Hall.

Bob Costin got a smart phone. The legendary former Delray Beach City Commissioner who avoided email and the Internet for decades finally gave in. Now if only he would text us.

Breakfast at Christina’s…it’s not just the Tabanero hot sauce, it’s the omelets. The best around.

Attending the FAU Sandler College of Social Work’s 2018 induction ceremony. To see 110 social workers honored brought tears to our eyes. They are heroes.

Happiness is being able to talk to Fran Marincola about something other than parking. Especially when that something is Springsteen on Broadway. Make sure you stop by Caffe Luna Rosa to see the Springsteen signed guitar we were able to snag on Touch of Modern.

Lunch at Mario’s on Glades. Just plain good.

Leadership Florida…it’s always inspiring.

Lunch with Andrew Duffel of the FAU Research Park. Always informative and always thought provoking. Not to mention the sublime food at Cuban Cafe.

The Joe Cotton Band Live At the Crest. Original songs. Great performances. Good crowd. A tambourine. Long live rock. Catch them when you can.

True Kitchen and Fresh Kitchen. Both in Boca. Both really good. And healthy too. Bolay too..delish.

Dinner at Domus in Boca. So good. Fresh pasta, an exuberant chef and a nice atmosphere.

Meeting Tony, Val and Maks of Dancing With the Stars Fame at their new dance studio at the Town Center Mall. Thanks to the Kaye’s for the invite.
Now if only The Bachelor would relocate here.

The Front Porch—this historic Delray spot is a great place for a summer salad, parmesan dumplings and great specialty cocktails. Check it out.

As summer heats up, we urge you to shop and dine local. In the past few weeks, we enjoyed visiting Vintage Tap, Harvest, 5th Avenue Grill, La Cigale, Oleo, Boheme, Brule, Papas Tapas and Deli on Rye. It’s nice to walk in and grab a table, even nicer to keep our local businesses successful during the slow months.

Finally, on a sad note we mourn the loss of two terrific Delray people: Dr. Fred Love and Pasqual Ranich.

Dr. Love was a wonderful guy who was a big part of an historic Delray family. We enjoyed a very nice relationship. I spent some time this month reading old emails he sent. He was always a gentleman and we had some wonderful discussions about Delray. A true gentleman.

Pasqual was a sweet man. We met when he was working at Boston’s on the Beach and I was privileged to help when he opened the Hurricane which he quickly built into a favorite local spot.
I will miss his smile and we will all miss his kindness. Just a wonderful guy.

Have a safe and enjoyable 4th. See you next week.

Remembering The Oldies, Celebrating The New

A classic…

Last week, I found an old menu on Facebook from Tom’s Place, an iconic culinary mecca in Boca Raton.

And I mean mecca, because people made pilgrimages to Tom’s Place to worship at the altar of bbq ribs.

The Boca Historical Society shared the post and it got a big reaction on their page.
Aside from the really low prices ($1.50 chicken sandwiches!) it struck a chord of nostalgia in those of us lucky to have experienced Tom’s amazing food.

I remember taking my dad to Tom’s many years ago. It was at Tom’s that we witnessed someone going up to the take out window  and ordering brisket which was met with a quizzical look. We talked about that experience for years.
But I digress.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. We tend to remember the good stuff and disregard the rest. So we remember Tom’s  but tend to forget that we weren’t exactly awash in restaurants back in the 80s. Of course, there were some great places—the Arcade Tap Room, Boston’s on the Beach, Scarlett O’Haras, Ken and Hazel’s, Damiano’s, Pineapple Grille, Splendid Blendeds, LaVielle Maison, Arturo’s, Caffe Luna Rosa and there is more.
But…
As good as the old giants were and are (here’s looking at you CLR), it seems like we are living in a golden age of restaurants.
Everywhere you look, even in nondescript locations, there exists some great restaurants.

Innovative menus, knowledgeable servers, gifted chefs, interesting interior designs, exciting craft cocktails and beers, world class wine lists, unique concepts. We are living in a special era. And the arms race seems to be just beginning.

Food halls, green markets, secret suppers, farm to table concepts, craft breweries, food tours, food trucks it’s extraordinary. Even convenience stores are turning into foodie havens, with artisanal sandwiches, kale salads and specialty breads.

We are also living in a great age of creativity.
To combat e-commerce and to stand out in the crowd, retailers, theater owners, hoteliers and even office developers are stepping up their games. (Boutique hotels, co-working, pop-up concepts etc).
For retail it’s all about the experience.
Movie theaters have added food, plush seating, film clubs and cocktails—a far cry from sticky floors, popcorn loaded with transfats and jujubes (remember those odd fruit chews?). While the changes are rapid and ongoing (please save the raisinet) the outcomes are pretty cool. Some local examples are iPic and the Living Room Theater at FAU. Both have raised the bar on the movie going experience and both seem to be doing well in the era of streaming and binge watching Netflix.
Sometimes the changes and the speed of change seems overwhelming. So yes, I miss the good old days.
But isn’t today and tomorrow exciting?