Things We Loved in April

A Delray institution celebrates a landmark birthday.

Things we Loved in April

A Milagro Milestone & A Proper Affair
April was a big month for Delray’s Milagro Center.
The non-profit celebrated its “Gala of Light” at the Loft at Congress and also marked the opening of its new Middle School program at the Virginia and Harvey Kimmel Milagro Junior Teen Center.
The opening means that the Milagro has three distinct centers serving the needs of our children from Kindergarten through high school.
The Kimmel’s have been a true blessing to Delray supporting many key nonprofits including the Delray Beach Public Library and Old School Square.

Speaking of great non profits, the Achievement Center for Children & Families is marking it’s 50th anniversary this year.
It’s Proper Affair fundraiser honored two of our favorite leaders: Karen Granger of 4 Kids and leadership consultant Suzanne Spencer who did stellar work with Delray’s Drug Task Force before departing to work with clients, our schools and the chamber’s leadership program.
Both are deserving honorees and fabulous leaders.

Recommended
We tried the Vino Wine Bar for the first time this month. This charming Boca Raton restaurant offers great Italian food in an intimate setting. Also a highlight: a wonderful and vast wine list and awesome food.

Mr. Plum Was A Local Legend
On a sad note, Delray lost a wonderful friend with the recent passing of Bill Plum at age 90.
It’s hard to overstate Bill’s contributions to the community.
Owner of Plum’s Pharmacy, founder and manager of the Delray Beach Club, President of Carney Bank, owner of Plum Realty, developer of the Plum Building and a prodigious fundraiser for Bethesda Hospital.
He also co-founded the Drug Abuse Foundation and was active in the Delray St. Patrick’s Day Parade and The Haven. And the list goes on.
He was a wonderful man. Who will be fondly remembered by all who were fortunate to cross his path.

A Theatrical Gem

We have become big fans of FAU’s Theatre Lab, a small intimate space where new plays come to life.
Under the direction of the talented Matt Stabile, local audiences get treated to cutting edge theater works.
We’ve  had a chance to see two plays by Jennifer Lane, an up and coming playwright who is bound for big things.
In April, we saw Lane’s  “Harlowe” an at times funny but mostly intense family drama.
It was a powerful performance and we highly recommend that you check out this wonderful venue if you enjoy thought provoking production. Another great treasure in our backyard.

Big Time
Nice to see State Attorney Dave Aronberg on Morning Joe.
Mr. Aronberg was opining on the college admissions scandal and particularly the questionable decisions by actress Lori Loughlin who at the time had not taken a deal by pleading guilty. (Disclosure: I went to high school with Ms. Loughlin).
Aronberg has gotten a lot of national press lately as a result of the situation involving Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Jupiter Day Spa.

Madison’s
Madison’s restaurant off of Glades Road is a terrific place. Love the bar, a great happy hour menu, amazing food and the wait staff is always great. Highly recommend.

Celebrating a Landmark
Delray’s Fifth Avenue Grill is celebrating its 30th anniversary in May.
That’s a lot of years in a tough business and a competitive landscape.
We recently dropped by for lunch and loved the new menu. Lots of great choices and always a bunch of specials. Now under new management with a new chef too.
(Disclosure: my company has an ownership stake).

The Mighty Max Delivers
The Max Weinberg’s Jukebox show at the Crest Theatre was in a word: amazing.
Two hours of unadulterated fun and great music from a rock and roll hall of famer and his terrific band.
Max, a proud Delray resident, talked up how much he loved playing the Crest and also gave some shout outs to local favorites Da Da and Doc’s.
If you have a chance to see the Jukebox don’t miss it. It’s a great night of music courtesy of an E Street legend.
Also kudos to promoter Rusty Young and his Music Works for bringing all sorts of great acts to the Crest—John Sebastian, Karla Bonoff, Stephen Bishop etc.

Healthy Options
We discovered the Bee Hive restaurant in Boca last month. Healthy food, reasonably priced and very generous portions. A welcome addition to the fast casual scene.

Motivation at La Cigale
We had a chance to have dinner at La Cigale with performance coach and best selling author Dr. Kevin Elko.
Dr. Elko has worked with 7 national college football champions and several NFL teams including the Cowboys, Eagles, Steelers and Packers. He’s about winning in business, sports and life by connecting, eliminating distractions and being present.
It’s a good message. Check out his website. https://www.drelko.com/

Pompano Rising
Sometimes we go a little afield to  try new things. So we traveled to Pompano to experience Mora Grill, a Lebanese restaurant.
It was outstanding. Lively (lots of belly dancing), really good food and just plain fun. Also very reasonably priced.
We then wandered down the recently improved beach promenade and ended up at the magnificent Beachhouse which is a really vibrant hot spot directly on the ocean. Keep an eye on Pompano.

Attracting VC attention
Congratulations to our friends at Bidtellect for ranking 13th on the South Florida Business Journal’s list of top 25 venture capital deals for the past four quarters ending March 31.
The Delray based paid content distribution platform raised $8.68 million.
Keep an eye on this company. It’s going to be big.
Boca’s Greenlane, a vape company, landed in  third place landing a whopping $48.2 million.
Christine’s is Magnificent
Kudos to Lynn University’s newest culinary gem: Christine’s.
Located on the second floor of the beautiful University Center, Christine’s offers great food with a beautiful view of the campus. A wonderful addition.

Devour
We visited Devour Brewery in Boynton Beach and sampled several excellent beers. My favorite: the Pineapple Hefe.
Definitely worth your time to visit and sample.

The Power of Vulnerability
If your not willing to build a vulnerable culture you can’t lead or innovate.
That’s was one of many messages/gems in the new Brene’ Brown Netflix special. “Call to Courage” is a great way to spend 75 minutes. So step away from the endless division on cable TV “news” and learn from a thought leader who teaches us about courage and vulnerability and how you can’t have one without the other.

Taking a Free Ride
Beatles on the Beach…Edgar Winter in Delray. How cool is that? Nuff said.

Long Awaited
We finally visited Louie Bossi in Boca. It was very good.
Wonderful food, excellent service and Nonna’s cheesecake is to die for.

Thanks & Happy Retirement

Congratulations and a heartfelt thanks to Phil Dorfman who retired after 30 years with the Delray Police Department.
I had a chance to ride with Phil several times over the years. We saw some things..Delray has come along way thanks in large part to the efforts of officers like Phil. We wish him well in his retirement.

Lynn: Making An Impact

Jerry Hildebrand, director of Lynn’s Social Impact Lab, is a legend in the field.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been a longtime fan of Lynn University and its visionary President Dr. Kevin Ross.

Last week, reminded me why.

Not a day goes by that we don’t see an article questioning the future of higher education. Colleges and universities are being disrupted, their business models challenged and now even admissions processes are being questioned in the wake of a recent national scandal.

But at Lynn University, we are witnessing a school that is pivoting with the times, riding the wave of change adeptly and becoming more relevant with every passing year.

Last week, I had the privilege of moderating a session at Lynn University’s first ever “Business for Good” conference hosted by Lynn’s new Social Impact Lab. I’m honored to be on the founding board of the lab which is run by a legend in the field: Jerry Hildebrand.

The conference brought together social entrepreneurs, business leaders, non-profit executives, students and investors anxious to learn how they can make a positive difference in the world.

As one of the keynote speakers Ron Cordes of the Cordes Foundation noted: it’s possible to invest capital and make a difference while making a profit too.

That’s a simple concept but a game changing shift in mindset.

I moderated a panel featuring two women who are reshaping the field of impact investing.

Kristin Fafard of Community Capital Management is the chief investment officer for a $2 billion plus fund that invests in affordable housing, clean water and other projects that provide both a return on capital and social impact. In fact, investors in her funds receive two reports—one chronicling financial performance and the other detailing the difference the fund’s capital is making in the community.

Community Capital is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale but has offices in the south and northeast. Since its inception 20 years ago, the firm has invested over $9 billion in impact initiatives nationwide.

From creating affordable housing to restoring the Everglades, Community Capital Management is in the vanguard of impact investing, a growing field.

Joining Kristin on the panel was a talented social entrepreneur named Lauren Harper, the founding director of Social Ventures Partners Miami, which is part of a philanthropic network with more than 39 affiliates in 9 countries and over 3,400 partners making SVP the largest network of engaged donors in the world.

We had a great conversation on how impact investing works and how communities and organizations can tie into the movement.

It was part of a day that brought a who’s who of players in the field to Boca Raton.

Here’s just a few of the stars who spent time at Lynn last week: the aforementioned Ron Cordes of the Cordes Foundation who chairs Lynn’s Social Impact Lab, Paul Rice, founder and CEO of Fair Trade USA, Eric Glustrom, CEO and Founder of the innovative Watson Institute (which now has an office on the Lynn campus), Eric Stephenson of Align Impact, Steve Fox of Impact Global Education, Felice Gorordo, CEO of Emerge Americas and a slew of other superstars in the impact investing and entrepreneurial worlds.

That all of these players—worldwide influencers—were gathered at Lynn is extremely significant and very exciting.

Lynn sees itself as a convener—which is a great role for a university to play—leading conversations around important topics and emerging opportunities.

Lynn’s new Social Impact Lab, includes event space and co-working opportunities giving both students and the community a place to gather, interact, collaborate and create. I had a chance to meet some really interesting students last week some of whom have ideas for social enterprises or businesses that have as part of their DNA plans to give back.

One student, Raymond Francois, is an aspiring food entrepreneur who is a Coast Guard veteran. As part of Lynn’s Social Impact Lab, Mr. Francois was able to travel to Macedonia where he worked with locals on community projects. The experience was life changing. As a result, his post grad plans include a business that would bring healthy food to underserved local neighborhoods. That’s very cool.

By investing in the next generation of game changers and opening a world of possibilities to their students, Lynn University guarantees against disruption and positions itself for years of success.

That this exciting world is happening on Military Trail ought to make all us very proud and excited about the future.

 

 

 

Things We Loved In March

Legends train in Delray…former Delray Open Champ and Delray resident Kevin Anderson and Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova.

 

Things we loved in March
We schlepped all the way to the Miramar Cultural Center to catch a lecture by two-time White House photographer Pete Souza and he was worth the trip.
Mr. Souza served as President Reagan’s photographer and then did an 8 year stint in the Obama White House.
His photography is magnificent. Of course there are the iconic shots—the President and his national security team watching Seal Team Six take out Osama Bin Laden, a five year old African American boy touching the President’s head and marveling that his hair is the same etc. etc.
But it was the behind the scenes shots of family, staff and life as POTUS that truly captivated.
Souza has released a few books and has a large following on Instagram if you want to check out his work.
The Miramar Cultural Center is pretty special too.

In Praise of LF
Leadership Florida is an organization that is close to my heart.
I’m a graduate of Class XXIV and I’ve tried to stay involved by attending annual meetings and serving on a few committees. The organization is dedicated to training, convening and educating leaders in politics, academia, business and non-profits. I think the best legacy of the organization is that it helps instill a love of Florida into those who participate. We may love our cities, we may love our regions but Leadership Florida helps us appreciate the wonders of our state.
For decades, Wendy Walker was the organization’s leader and guiding light. She retired about two years ago and has remained in touch with the organization.
Last month, Diane and I and fellow LF grad Jon Levinson had a chance to meet Wendy and her family for lunch at the marvelous River House in Palm Beach Gardens.
It was a great afternoon of catching up, talking about the state of our state and learning where other graduates have landed.
If you value leadership, I urge you to check out the organization and apply for one it’s programs. It will change your life.

Discover the Theatre Lab

We attended a play at the FAU Theatre Lab for the first time in March.
“To Fall In Love” by Jennifer Lane (remember that name she’s a wonderful talent) was given a reading by Theatre Lab Artistic Director Matt Stabile and the talented local actress Niki Fridh.
The play was directed by Louis Tyrell, a name that should be familiar to local theater goers.
The experience was electric.
And we highly recommend that you visit this small little gem of a theater on the FAU campus.
In fact, the Lab will present another  Jennifer Lane play “Harlowe” through April 14. Call 561-297-6124 or visit https://nam03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=www.fauevents.com&data=02%7C01%7C%7C0e30c440221440d3afe308d6b2e205d8%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636893081156480236&sdata=m6rM1LHn3wc8rSXhEO0F5f6YmroVDN1%2BFB9mZwAHaDU%3D&reserved=0 for more information.
After the play, Tyrell and the two person cast answered questions about the performance. It was an intimate and engaging experience and we were amazed at how two talented actors with no props other than a music stand could turn a reading into a transformative and emotional experience.
The Theatre Lab is a gem.

Good Books
We have a few books to recommend this month.
“Blitzscaling” by Linked In founder Reid Hoffman is a good read and helpful if you want to build a company that will conquer the world or at least its market.
Really enjoyed “Return on Courage” by Ryan Berman which talks about the benefits of being courageous in business and in life. Dare to try, dare to be different and take some chances. Simple advice but oh so hard in entrenched organizations.  But those people and organizations that do find the courage reap outsized rewards and change the world.

Celsius + Creative Mornings
Close readers of this space know I’m a huge fan of Creative Mornings Palm Beach.
And knowing their caffeinated audience I thought our beverage company Celsius would be a good fit.
So I replaced my personal sponsorship of the group with a Celsius sponsorship and I’m pleased to report that Creative Mornings and Celsius have hit it off! So check out an upcoming Creative Morning and make sure you sample Celsius, a local company that’s doing some great things.

The Gazebo rocks & Senor Burrito is also great

Chicken Chablis, French bread and two good friends dining at the bar/counter at Boca’s sublime Kathy’s Gazebo. My friend had liver…he said it was good. I’ll have to take his word for it.

There are few things in life better than sitting at the bar at Senor Burrito with a margarita, chips and a plate of carne asada. Trust us on this. Seriously.

Welcome iPic Delray

The red carpet gala at the new iPic Delray was one of the best parties ever. Truly.
This project is another level. The art work, the design, the comfort of the pods, the finishes.
CEO Hamid Hashemi and his team deserve kudos for their  perseverance in the wake of toxic opposition. iPic’s  execution and vision is something to see.  The project is a wow.

New Digs for Stuart & Shelby

Congratulations to Chuck Halberg and the team at Stuart and Shelby on the grand opening celebration  of their new headquarters on 4th Avenue in Delray.
The office looks great and a big crowd turned out for a genuine good guy who does so much for the community.
We wish them many more years of continued success.

Days of Wine & Seafood

It was great to see the Delray Wine and Seafood Festival return to Old School Square.
Great seminars, awesome food and the “wine down” garden was brilliant.

 A terrific job by producers Festival Management Group. Nancy, Bern, John and Lindi are something special. If you missed it this year, make sure you mark your calendars for next year. And don’t miss the pairing seminars. We attended a Cabernet seminar featuring Napa Valley wines such as Frog’s Leap, Spring Valley and Rutherford. Paired with great food courtesy of Caffe Luna Rosa’s terrific chef Ernie DeBlasi . It was a memorable experience. P.S. Caffe Luna Rosa has magnificent crab cakes and lobster rolls.

Only in Delray

Sharp eyed tennis fans got a major treat in March when they stumbled on Delray’s Kevin Anderson training with legend Martina Navratilova at the Delray Tennis Center.
The former Delray Open champ hails from South Africa but fell in love with Delray after playing here. He soon bought a home and even adopted a rescue dog at the CRA Green Market. Pretty cool.
Martina was in town and the two had a chance hit a few balls and chat about the tennis life.

Speaking of tennis, Delray sensation Coco Gauff earned a wild card to play in the prestigious Miami Open. Quite a coup for the 15 year old junior champ as the Miami Open is considered one of the world’s top tournaments—a step below a Grand Slam. Coco won her first WTA tour match beating fellow wildcard Catherine McNally 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. On a related note, she was also featured in Forbes magazine in March.

A New Venu
We checked out West Boynton’s Venu last month, a live music venue, restaurant and bar in The Canyon Center.
The food was delicious, the happy hour menu was inexpensive and tasty and the acts range from tribute bands to national acts such as Los Lobos and the Marshall Tucker Band. Rascals legend Felix Cavaliere played there in March. Really interesting place. We were there the same night they had a sell out for a Queen tribute band.

Burgers and Wine and Cars

Highly recommend Zimburger, a burger and wine bar in the Town Center Mall.
The veggie burger is outstanding and so are the truffle fries, which may cancel out the veggie burger.

Imagine our surprise when we stumbled into an appearance by rock hall of famer and Cars frontman Ric Ocasek at the mall’s Wentworth Gallery.
It turns out Mr. Ocasek is also a fine artist and the gallery was featuring his paintings.
I’d say seeing his art work was “just what I needed” but that would be too obvious.

Making Deals and Bringing Jobs to Town
I had a chance to speak to the South Florida Office Brokers Association at their monthly meeting hosted at Delray Central,  a recently renovated office building owned by Grover Corlew, a local real estate firm.
For me, it was a chance to talk about the redevelopment of the Office Depot headquarters across the street and to meet the pro’s who bring the tenants to projects.
It was an impressive group.
I was also very impressed with the renovations done to the newly branded Delray Central office building which looks great.
It’s really good to see investment happening along the Congress Avenue corridor.

A Fond Farewell to a Great Chief

Congratulations to Police Chief Jeff Goldman on his retirement and his new gig in corporate security.
Chief Goldman and I go way way back. He was a young officer on Delray’s tactical team working street level drugs and crime when I was young reporter in Delray back in the 80s, when parts of Delray resembled an open air drug market.
I was able to observe the Police Department’s stellar work on frequent ride alongs at all hours of the night. I got to know Jeff and we’ve been friends ever since.
It was gratifying to see him rise through the ranks and make a difference along the way.
Being chief is a very hard job but Jeff kept his head about him through the opioid crisis, weird politics, spasms of violence in the community and changing players at City Hall, including a slew of city managers.
I will miss him and wish him well in his next chapter.

Inspired Choices
Congratulations to Amanda Perna and Jamael Stewart on been named the new hosts of Delray Morning Live. The duo will replace the show’s founders Ryan Boylston and Kate Volman who have become Wednesday morning staples on Facebook with their live stream featuring a host of local luminaries.
It isn’t easy to do a weekly live show but Ryan and Kate have done an amazing job.
I had a chance to catch up with Kate after a recent show at Capital One Cafe and she’s doing great things in the leadership field as a new CEO of a consulting company. We all know Ryan is super busy as a city commissioner and entrepreneur.
Amanda is a talented entrepreneur herself and Jamael is a rising star as our assistant director of community improvement.
Good to see the Chamber of Commerce involved as the show enters a new era. Tune in Wednesday’s on Facebook.

Making an Impact
Kudos to Lynn University’s new Social Impact Lab on it’s fabulous “Business for Good” conference. Top notch speakers on topics including venture philanthropy, impact investing and fair trade attracted a large crowd. Terrific launch for the new lab which is amazing. (See a future blog for more info).

Long Table, Great Night
Savor the Avenue did it again.
A great night eating at large tables spanning Atlantic Avenue highlights Delray’s terrific restaurants.
We sat with new residents and visitors from London who marveled at our town.
Kudos to Delray Magazine, the DDA and all of the participating restaurants. We were at The Office’s table and it was great.

What a month. See you in April.

Catching Up On Ideas

Five years ago, we published a blog post outlining 25 ideas for Delray.

We stumbled upon the post this week and thought we’d take a look to see whether any of these ideas came to life.

25 Ideas …

1.Brand Delray Beach as a mecca for entrepreneurs—Progress: Delray has attracted a fair amount of interesting entrepreneurs including The Downtowner, Delivery Dudes, House of Perna and Rooster among others. There also several social entrepreneurial efforts including WiseTribe, Space of Mind, One Million Cups, Creative Mornings Palm Beach (not Delray based per se, but active in the city).

2.To accomplish the above, create a business incubator downtown and invite entrepreneurs to grow in Delray. Progress:  Not yet. There are a few co-working efforts—the Kitchn etc., but a true incubator has yet to be established. Perhaps, overlooking the Old School Square Park? Great opportunity.

3.Create a business accelerator in Delray so that once companies are incubated they have someplace to go for the extra needed help. Progress: Not yet.

4.Help existing businesses grow by offering classes and low or no-cost business advice at our own Old School Square. Progress: Not yet.

5.Speaking of Old School Square, offer executive education, certificate and graduate programs in the classrooms. Revenue for Old School Square and another tool for economic development. Progress: Not on the drawing board.

6.Program the Old School Square Park—add shade, music and a few tasteful vendors. Progress: Work has been done to forge a vision for the park, but not yet accomplished. Bond issue establishing the park was passed almost 13 years ago. Lots of discussion around what to fund.

7.At holiday time, create a holiday village at the Old School Square park and allow kiosks and “pop-up” stores to capture crowds heading to the 100 foot tree. Give local retailers a free or reduced stall and charge others for the month—use funds to offset holiday costs. Progress: A new tree, no pop-ups.

8.Creatively partner with the Elev 8 Sports Institute and bring “fantasy camps” to Delray. With the school’s extensive MLB contacts, tourists would come to Delray to play with their childhood heroes and enjoy the downtown after the game is over. Progress: Didn’t happen.

9.Install LED lighting in parking lots and parking garages. It’s green and it saves money. Progress: Several entrepreneurs interested in making it happen.

10.Create a leadership academy to train the next generation of local leaders. Teach the Delray success story. Progress: In 2016, Chamber ran a civics academy. It was well attended. But a follow-up has not yet occurred.

11.Create a local Business Development Corporation enabling local residents to buy “shares” in local businesses and invest in growing our own economy. Progress: Not on the radar.

12.Reinvigorate the Southwest Plan by borrowing a page from Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Empowerment Zone playbook. Seek foundation monies to move beyond infrastructure to developing Delray’s vast human capital. Progress: WARC working on a transformation plan, efforts to rebrand the area as The Set underway.

13.Arm the economic development director with a reasonable budget to market Delray. We have to get in the game and that takes marketing and… Progress: Nope.

14.Public Relations. Delray needs a publicity strategy outside the local papers to attract investment and build awareness of our assets and opportunities. After all, we are the jewel of Palm Beach County. Progress: Downtown Marketing Cooperative, Chamber and Downtown Development Authority do a great job.

15.Tie the new Arts Warehouse to a broader strategy to create an artists and artisans “village within a village” in the Third Avenue area. Progress: Five years later, we just attended the grand opening of the long-awaited warehouse. Better late than never, and it’s fabulous.

16.Help Delray’s Prep and Sports develop a national reputation for elite football training and make the 7 on 7 event one of the premier tournaments in the USA. Progress: Prep and Sports’ founder T.J. Jackson was hired to coach Atlantic High. He took them to the state finals this year.

17.Convene an economic development charrette to discuss our fiscal future and job creation—let the community decide the priorities and tie our spending to those priorities. Progress: Economic development will be a part of the comp plan. Yay!

18.Team up with our neighbors Boca Raton and Boynton wherever possible:  economic development, marketing to save money and leverage our strengths. Progress: An alliance has been discussed around government affairs on regional issues with area chambers.

19.Get serious about jumpstarting investment on Congress Avenue. The vision and zoning is in place, what’s needed is execution and beautification. Progress: Years after handing in a report, the Task Force plan has been largely shelved by the commission. Vice Mayor Chard has kept the flame burning with meetings among property owners and investors. Kaufman Lynn located to Congress, transforming a derelict property into a great new headquarters. Investor interest remains high on the corridor. The city could help by implementing the plan and amending the LDR’s as promised.

20.Add a Middle School of the Arts at Carver Middle School and tie it into all of our arts activities from Old School Square to the Creative City Collaborative to the new Plumosa School of the Arts. Progress: Hasn’t happened.

21.Bring a branch of a university downtown and one to Congress Avenue. Progress: Lynn University has partnered with the Delray chamber. Stay tuned.

22.Revisit the North Federal Highway Plan and come up with a new vision for the 21st Century. Progress: Hasn’t happened.

23.Host a competition and have our local techies develop some interesting local apps. Progress: Hasn’t happened. The city of Tallahassee and the Florida League of Cities has had success with this approach.

24.Develop a formal, aggressive and powerful Shop Local Campaign. Progress: Small Business Saturday has become a big deal in recent years.

25.Add entrepreneurship academies to Atlantic High and Village Academy. Progress: Hasn’t happened yet.

Lynn’s MBA in Delray: Only The Beginning

A most welcome addition

Last night was an important one for Delray Beach.

Quietly, before a few guests, the trajectory of our downtown might have changed forever.

That’s a big statement. I may be wrong, but let me try and back it up.

After months of negotiations, Lynn University will launch an MBA in Delray program focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing at the Delray Chamber. The one-year program will be offered at night and tailored to working professionals and entrepreneurs.

The move was announced a few weeks ago, but it felt real last night when a contingent of Lynn staff led by President Kevin Ross and Business School Dean Dr. RT Good told a small gathering of local leaders and entrepreneurs why they chose Delray and what the program will entail.

Folks, we have to make this work. Why?  Because if it does it changes the game and enhances the brand that has been fostered by a slew of Delray Beach visionaries and stakeholders since the mid-80s.

Dr. Ross and Chamber President Karen Granger see the MBA in Delray as an innovative model that chambers and universities can replicate across the country. It enables chambers to get needed revenue, enhance value for their members and grow local economies, while enabling universities to reach into communities and tailor programs to meet local needs and trends.

Dr. Good and the Lynn team have been hard at work designing a “different” kind of curriculum that promises deeper relationships with faculty, classmates and local businesses while focusing on leadership, hands-on projects and case studies.

For the chamber it enables a deeper dive into the world of entrepreneurship, a focus and passion for President Granger who has quietly but persistently nurtured relationships with a growing number of promising local entrepreneurs. Many were there for the Lynn celebration including Brian Niles of Rooster, Eric Bucher of Call Sprout and Project Runway’s Amanda Perna, who runs “House of Perna,” an emerging fashion design brand.

Delray and Boca’s emerging foodie economy was represented as well with catering by fabulous Farmer’s Table restaurant, which I think has enormous potential. (Here’s where I should plug my two food/beverage related brands Tabanero and Celsius, but that would be indulgent no? Wink)

All of this is to say, that this partnership may signal that Delray’s downtown and indeed its economy is expanding beyond food and beverage—and that’s a good thing. A diversified economy is a more resilient and sustainable model.

Many years ago, Delray made a conscious choice to lead with food, beverage, culture and festivals to jumpstart its moribund, dull and dangerous downtown corridor.

It was a smart move, brilliantly executed by many, many important contributors and risk taking entrepreneurs.

And it worked, remarkably well.

We have a vibrant, valuable, cool, and attractive and revenue generating downtown that looks and feels good.

Our restaurant “row” generates crowds, creates jobs and helped to change how people see Delray Beach.

Our cultural and intellectual amenities: Old School Square, the Delray Beach Library, Spady Museum, Sandoway House, Delray Historical Society, Arts Garage and historic districts make us a distinct destination which drives property values, tax base, quality of life and tourism which is another critically important industry.

Festivals have also played and continue to play a major role. Which is why it was incredibly disappointing to see the debate about their value so mishandled. It’s an opportunity missed because so many cities are building their economies and brands around festivals. It’s something that should be revisited and expanded beyond the myopic debate around cost and inconvenience. I’m not saying that cost and resident convenience isn’t critically important because it is, but most of those issues can be solved with creative planning and by examining the revenue side of the equation and the intrinsic value created by events.

The Delray Marriott, Residence Inn, Seagate Hotel, Hyatt, Fairfield, Crane’s Beach House, Wright by the Sea, Parliament Inn, the historic Colony Hotel, Sundy House and other properties are extremely valuable assets that drive our economy and brand. They don’t stay viable and valuable—if we don’t have a vibrant local economy with many parts working.

The Delray ATP and the many junior events as well as our golf courses and sports facilities are also important assets that can be grown, nurtured, promoted and leveraged to keep our economy sustainable and the Delray value proposition higher than most other cities—especially small cities. We compete for investment and jobs. And we’ve built a powerhouse of a charming little city.

Cities that work have many moving parts that have to work together in concert to create lasting value.

Delray—imperfect as it is, challenged as it is—has done that. Value has been created. Quality of life and place has been created. It is our job and our responsibility to keep it going and to create a city of opportunity for all.

Through my 30 years here, my community involvement and my professional life—I get to meet and work with many talented people who aspire.

Kids from Atlantic High School and Village Academy who want to come back to Delray and make a life here, City staff who went into public service to make a difference, startup founders whom I encourage, informally advise and ask for help myself on my business challenges, educators who care, non-profit leaders who perform miracles, established business owners who volunteer and invest here, retirees who mentor, artists who amaze and parents who want to see their children achieve the American Dream in a world that is increasingly complicated and fraught.

They want a Better Delray—they’ve wanted that for a long time and they’ve made and are making a difference.

So yes the Lynn MBA in Delray is very big news.

I know President Ross. He’s a friend. He’s a visionary. He and his talented team make things happen. So this is just a start.

But it’s an important beginning. A unique and innovative university is working with our Chamber of Commerce in our downtown—and the potential is enormous.

In his remarks last night Dr. Ross noted that he recently began talking to his teenage daughter about life after college (she’s still in high school). Does she want to come back to Florida? Of course, she does.

Where does she want to live?

Delray.

She’s not alone. So take pride. Something very special was built here and the best is yet to come.

Welcome to Delray, Lynn University.

We’re thrilled beyond words.

We’ve wanted you here for a very long time.

Many people have worked very hard to catch your attention and create a place you and your students will want to be.

 

 

Why Wait for Valentine’s Day?

ibelieveAssets.
When we think of Boca and Delray’s assets we might think of beaches, Atlantic Avenue, Old School Square, maybe the Boca Resort and universities.
Assets all.

Valuable– in some cases historic– and of course cherished and appreciated.
But people are also assets and we are certainly blessed in that regard as well.

I just think that sometimes we lose sight of the special people, because– let’s face it– the whiners, complainers, haters, bullies, nitwits and nasties can eat up a lot of our time and energy. That’s why it’s important to pause and remind ourselves that indeed there are good people in our lives and communities quietly doing yeoman’s work not because it’s a photo op, or they are getting rich or because they are self-serving but simply because they are good people who care. We’ve done this before on the blog with a group of people and we will do it again. Luckily, we have an endless list of people to love, cherish and appreciate. So if your name isn’t below, it’s not because we don’t appreciate and love you. We do. Just give us a little time to catch up.
Here’s a look at a few human assets that make our community sing.
Gary Eliopoulos–architect, dad, savior of historic homes, former city commissioner and the funniest man I know (and I know funny people). Gary and I grew up together in Delray. We were in the same Leadership Delray class way back when and I’m a proud member of his occasional happy hour group at The Sail Inn (a Yankee bar) where Gary, a Red Sox fan, holds court and keeps us laughing. And you can’t put a price on that. He’s also an amazing architect who adores Delray Beach and we love him back.
Bob Barcinski-Mr. B as he is affectionately known served as assistant city manager during a golden age of Delray retiring a few years back before an adoring crowd at the golf club. Bob was never comfortable with attention, deflected credit and was loyal to his boss, his employees and his community. He’s a happy grandpa these days who can still be found at the counter of the Green Owl. If you worked with Bob, you realized how great he was. He got it done. And done well. Without fail. Every single time. If you want to pick a guy to be in a foxhole with look no further than Mr. B.
Evelyn Dobson-director of the Community Land Trust and past Northwest Neighborhood leader, Evelyn is a passionate crusader for homeownership and neighborhood revitalization. She quietly gets it done. Take a drive through the neighborhoods where the Land Trust has built homes and you will see success and families transformed through the pride of homeownership. Evelyn is one my heroes.
Pame Williams–Pame works for the City of Delray and has also been active in the community for decades. Whether it’s volunteering at events or working to improve her neighborhood you can always count on Pame and she’ll always make you smile. She will also put you in line if you misbehave. I like that. Little known fact: she secretly likes Neil Diamond.
Gary Ferreri-a detective and union leader, Gary has a reputation for always going the extra mile. Whether it’s helping a neighborhood or speaking out on behalf of his fellow officers Det. Ferreri is a leader. He has a lot of fans in Delray.  He has unlimited potential because he’s smart and has a heart and feel for the community he protects and serves.
Linda Ripps -founder of Golden Retrievals, a Boca based rescue organization for my favorite breed. Linda has a heart of gold too. She’s rescued retrievers locally and from far flung places like Korea too.  Her work not only saves great dogs but it enriches families beyond measure. I’m reminded of her big heart every day when I’m greeted by 90 pounds of love and hair named Teddy.
Kevin Ross–the visionary president of Lynn University, Dr. Ross has never been afraid to shake up his curriculum and look outside for inspiration which he then brings back to Lynn so his students can benefit. I admire that ethos and it ensures that Lynn will disrupt not be disrupted.  I love working with Kevin. He inspires because he aspires: for his students, his faculty, his friends, his alumni and his community.
Mike Covelli–a talented land planner and designer, Mike always makes his projects stronger. One of the smartest people I know. Every time I speak to Mike I learn something I never knew before. He has insights and sees things in a very unique way. He makes every project he touches infinitely better and he’s a good guy too.
Tony Allerton–I’ve known Tony for close to 30 years and he’s always been a leader and a gentleman. The founder of The Crossroads, Tony’s leadership has helped people for decades and his organization serves almost 1,000 people a day. Think about that times 35 years. Tony’s passion for people in recovery who are trying to reclaim their lives knows no bounds. He has quietly made a profound impact on countless families.
Tim Snow-Tim is just one of the good guys. As head of the Boca-based George Snow Scholarship Fund (named after his father) Tim leads a 34 year old fund that has awarded more than $8 million in scholarships to deserving students in our community. He has changed so many lives through the gift of education.
It’s all about the people. We hope to spotlight many more in the future columns.

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.

A Tech Cluster in the Works

Lots of tech news happening in these parts

Lots of tech news happening in these parts

Is a tech cluster forming in South Florida?
It sure seems that way according to new research by real estate firm CB Richard Ellis.

Four cities in the Sunshine State made the top 50 list of tech clusters in the most recent survey of technology activity nationwide.

Miami ranked 50th, Fort Lauderdale 48th, Orlando 47th and Tampa 36th in a report card issued by CBRE that includes a range of factors measuring office space, tech jobs, tech degrees and technology investment.

CBRE cited Miami as a particularly fast rising city based on the growth of its millennial population and the explosive buzz around the eMerge conference.

Just like South by Southwest put Austin on the global map, eMerge is creating a brand for Miami.

Closer to home, we are seeing efforts at local universities begin to gain traction.

Lynn University has developed a very close relationship with Apple, with regular site visits by key Lynn leaders to Apple’s plush campus in Cupertino. The relationship is developing new and innovative ways to deliver higher education and promises to make Lynn a global leader in the emerging field. Lynn will have a presence at eMerge to discuss its ambitious and exciting plans.

FAU is also ramping up its efforts with the launch of Tech Runway (full disclosure, I sit on the Tech Runway Advisory Board) and the success of the FAU Research Park which is growing companies including Dan Kane’s latest Modernizing Medicine.

Even the Internet Coast, which was quiet for a while, has re-emerged with a lot of activities and events.

In Delray, technology based firms are quietly setting up shop, attracted by the vibrancy of Atlantic Avenue.

Even off the avenue, we are witnessing some interesting office plays, including a beautiful space operated by Regus (a co-working firm) on Congress Avenue in the newly purchased Arbors building.

Downtown, the 55 Delray building is a virtual beehive or entrepreneurs and Atlantic Plaza boasts the presence of Domain Holdings and Bidtellect, companies founded by the super entrepreneur (and all around cool guy) John Ferber (fuller disclosure, I performed John and his lovely wife Jenna’s wedding ceremony at the Seagate Club a few years back).

Boca Raton has a rich tech heritage as the birthplace of the IBM PC.

Many of the former IBMers remained in the area. Former IBM Boca President Pete Martinez is one of those who stayed here. He’s got a new start-up called Game Changing Technologies that is worth keeping tabs on.

All of this is good news for our community as we diversify the economy beyond real estate, construction and tourism.

 

Breaking From the Competitive Herd

Harvard Professor Youngme Moon visited Lynn U. last week.

Harvard Professor Youngme Moon visited Lynn U. last week. Her book is a seminal study of how companies can break from the competitive herd.

Harvard Business School Professor Youngme Moon wrote one of the best  business books in recent times. The kind of book you keep going back to because it contains amazing insights and information.

“Different” is an elegantly written treatise on how to break away from the competitive herd and build a company that is different and meaningful.

Last week, thanks to President Dr. Kevin Ross of Lynn University I had a chance to meet Professor Moon and listen to her wow the crowd at the “Dively Lecture Series” at the magnificent Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn.

In an engaging talk that covered “different” companies such as Ikea, Twitter, Google and “the Mini” Cooper, Dr. Moon laid out a compelling case for why we long for brands and experiences that are different and meaningful not stale and boring.

Too many brands are of the “me too” variety touting qualities such as “new and improved” or “cheaper and faster”; for the consumer it’s all a blur.

But the outliers, the companies that truly stick out, have an attitude that makes them stand out  and break away from the herd.

Can you imagine pitching an idea for a furniture store that would only feature one type of design (Scandinavian), would offer stores with virtually no sales associates and force you to build the furniture yourself?

On top of that, the furniture would be the opposite of durable; in fact, it would be borderline flimsy.  It would be like opening a restaurant without waiters and asking customers to cook their own food.

But that model describes IKEA which has become a global brand and an immensely popular destination for shoppers.

Ikea is different.

Dr. Moon says brands that are different say yes to things that nobody else says yes to and no to things that nobody else before them said no to. They flip conventional wisdom on its head.

At first, many of these ideas seem crazy and or wrong. A social network limited to 140 characters? A car that is so small that it can fit inside an SUV? How about an internet portal with a lot of white space that offers nothing but search? No ads, no sports scores, no weather, no news. And by the way, what is a Google?

Often times, different brands focus on the negative characteristics of their products. Remember the first Mini ads…a bill board that said this: XL, X, M, S and Mini…smaller than small. The car, with no brand awareness in the states and a limited ad budget in a crowded field of trucks and SUVs sold like hot cakes.

As CEO of a hot sauce company (Tabanero) and as someone involved with a beverage brand (Celsius) –both ridiculously crowded categories– Dr. Moon provides both inspiration and a challenge: how to be different?

But it’s really more than a challenge isn’t it? It’s more of a mandate. It’s be different or fail.

And so I thought a lot about Dr. Moon’s theories and I’ve concluded hat her thinking is apropos for a whole lot of endeavors.

Lynn University gets “different”. Dr. Ross and his team have innovated with curriculum, campus design and technology and they’ve created value and an experience for students and faculty that is different and constantly improving.

Cities too have to be “different” or succumb to the mind numbing sameness of the 21st Century landscape.

Dr. Ross introduced me to Professor Moon and in our conversation he described Delray as a different kind of place, an innovative city. He’s right, of course.

And being “different” is a journey not a defined destination, you have to constantly iterate and evolve. You have to think and not allow success, fear, change or complacency stop you from being different.

Different stands out. Different create value. Different is what we are looking for.

 

 

 

Vision

Progress is not a zero sum game

Progress is not a zero sum game

I just read a wonderful interview with Dan Gilbert in The Wall Street Journal.

Gilbert, founder and CEO of Quicken Loans and owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, is doing remarkable work in downtown Detroit breathing new life into a city that has given bad times a new definition.

Gilbert is acquiring tons of real estate in the downtown core with the ambitious goal of not only bringing Detroit back as a world class city, but making it better than it ever was.

I wouldn’t bet against him or his $1 billion investment.

Civic pride+smarts+capital+ passion x powerful ideas=transformation. Whether you are talking about Delray Beach, Boca Raton or Detroit.

Forty miles south of here you can feel the energy that is transforming Miami into a city that matters in finance, technology, fashion, food, education, medicine, music, design, retail and art.

From the power and reach of Art Basel to the emerging tech scene in Miami Beach, Miami is on the move led by a new generation of entrepreneurs supported by veteran business leaders and philanthropic interests such as the Knight Foundation.

I’m hoping that last week’s announcement by the Schmidt Family Foundation –which stepped up with the largest gift in FAU’s history –is only the beginning of a movement to transform Palm Beach County.

We have to get in the game.

The bar has been raised on success in the 21st Century and cities and regions that understand this and act will be the winners while complacent cities will wither and die.

Big cultural and demographic changes are under way whether we like it or not. These are seismic changes, irreversible and we are not immune, even though some of us wish we were or think we are.

Ignore the rise of the millennial generation and you will be like the staid old restaurant that catered to an old crowd and then wondered why business dried up when their customers died off.

Miami—busy, noisy, traffic choked, diverse—gets it.

Civic leaders like Manny Medina have stepped up to make it happen, funding and mentoring promising entrepreneurs. The Knight Foundation has also been a major player supporting the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem and cultural offerings which create a sense of place and artistic vibrancy.

Art Basel has become an international phenomenon not only supporting the art world, but also becoming a launching pad for brands and products eager to reach an audience of international influencers.

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit ROKK3R Labs, an innovative Miami company that “co-builds” tech companies. Their Miami Beach office is a bee hive of energy and ideas attracting local talent and people from all over the world.

Remember that name, because ROKK3R is going to be a game changing engine for South Florida and other markets.

Locally, FAU’s Tech Runway and Research Park are promising efforts with big upsides. Lynn University’s new business school and creative partnership with Apple is also something to watch closely.

But….

Palm Beach County has to make a decision.

Does it want to be a resort type place driven by tourism, retirees and service industries, namely food, beverage and hospitality?
Or does it want to really engage and become a dynamic region attracting start-ups and the next generation of creative and business leaders?

It doesn’t have to be an either or choice? You can remain attractive to retirees and tourists and still plan for the future which should include strategies to give our children opportunities right here at home.

You can invite economic growth without sacrificing affordability or creating traffic driven by sprawl like development (see: Valley, Silicon.) We don’t have to look and feel like Miami; we can shape our growth and destiny by creating great places, promoting walkable mixed use neighborhoods and embracing vibrancy, art and commerce.

But it requires leadership, people like Dan Gilbert  and progressive leaders and visionaries who can take already great places and make them even better and more sustainable.

The question is who will step up? Because the opportunities are huge.