On Doc’s, Real Estate & The Importance of Libraries

Doc'sRandom thoughts on Disparate Subjects…

Real estate prices in Delray Beach and Boca Raton can be mind boggling.
We’ve all seen the headlines regarding Doc’s, the Sundy House, the Green Owl and Huber’s Drugs.
Big prices. Huge bets being made by deep pocketed people.
These are iconic properties and as such important.
Change is also important and inevitable but it’s also critical that a city hold onto to its history, it’s look and it’s feel.
While I cannot begrudge property owners for selling their land for big prices I think there are two concerns that cities can address–they’re not easy challenges and the solutions are imperfect but worth considering.

Those concerns are affordability and  design.
Maintaining affordability in a sizzling market is not easy–market forces are strong and difficult to buck. But there are some strategies cities can deploy to ensure that mom and pop merchants can remain viable.
On the residential front tools such as density bonuses can be used to ensure at least some affordability.
Delray has also done yeoman’s work by creating and supporting a very effective Community Land Trust in which a non-profit entity buys land, develops property and places the land in a trust to ensure affordability in perpetuity. Homeowners own the homes but the land remains in the trust and increases in values are capped.
One wonders whether a similar approach can be taken to commercial property–an expensive proposition no doubt but it might be something to explore for culturally important properties.
Other tools include historic designations which would not cap appreciation of values but would control what can happen to a property if it is bought and redeveloped. If properties are not already designated historic, property owners often balk at seeking the designation because it hinders development. This is not a phenomenon limited to developers, we’ve seen single family neighborhoods rebel when the historic word is used.
I always felt CRA’s could be used to strategically acquire properties so that the city can control their disposition.
While there are some constraints and limitations (including the Sunshine law which makes it hard for CRA’s to move on land discreetly) there’s no doubt that CRA’s can and have bought important properties enabling cities to shape the future look, feel and use of land and districts.
I think an opportunity was missed to purchase the warehouses in the Artist’s Alley neighborhood. If the CRA had grabbed that strategic real estate to go along with their wise purchase of the Arts Warehouse there’s no doubt we could have had a sustainable arts district–our version of Wynwood which could have been placed in a trust and managed by another entity.
Instead, the battle between community desires and market forces will persist and we all know the win loss record on that front isn’t good. Delray’s track record is actually better than most cities in this regard as a result of visioning efforts and CRA investments. When you own properties you can control their destiny. The City Commission would be wise to tighten their relationship with the CRA, get on the same page and work together on these types of initiatives.
The other tools available to cities worried about gentrification are to develop design guidelines to stop or mitigate generic architecture and to encourage the development of other shopping districts so that as areas heat up, independents have a place to go.
Delray’s brave decision to narrow Federal Highway has converted that stretch from a highway to a neighborhood street opening up commercial possibilities. South of the avenue and other nooks and crannies may also offer opportunities now that Atlantic Avenue and Pineapple Grove’s prices have soared. Of course, with prices exceeding $1 million on acre on US 1 it won’t be easy.

Libraries are cool
We had an opportunity to attend the 10th annual Laughs With the Library event at the Marriott featuring the terrific Bobby Collins.
If you haven’t seen Bobby perform, put it on your bucket list. He’s a comedian’s comedian.
A large crowd turned out to support our library. That was heartening to see.
Lots of rumors are swirling around the library including making it a city department. That would be a mistake.
The Delray Library has a rich history and it’s location is ideal to serve the community. It also happens to be a beautiful place.
Is there a place for a library in the 21st Century? Yes, as a community hub, intellectual center, lifelong learning facility and a place for children and families to develop and indulge a love of books and reading. That’ll never go out of style.

Real estate buzz at Lynn

A few weeks ago, Lynn University President Kevin Ross convened a round table to discuss the creation of a real estate program at Lynn.
I was privileged to attend the small gathering and encouraged to start spreading the word. So I will. Gladly.
I’m a huge Lynn fan and a big admirer of Dr. Ross who is entrepreneurial and innovative. He’s a leader. And I like leaders.
The idea is not fully hatched yet but there’s a resolve and a commitment to create a boot camp program to teach skills to those passionate about real estate.
Executives from GL Homes, Kayne Anderson, Avison Young are at the table and there is a huge need to train people in all aspects of the profession.
Since growth and development are always at the top of the list in Boca and Delray it’s important to train a new generation in skills ranging from design, transaction, land use, resiliency, environmental sustainability, urban planning and more.
There’s also a screaming need to elevate the dialogue around these issues. Here’s predicting that Lynn will lead the way.

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