Vision, Courage + Urgency=Success

Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin's viral video disrupted an entrenched industry.

Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin’s viral video disrupted an entrenched industry.

Vision.

Courage.

A sense of urgency.

If you want to succeed as a city or a business, you need all three.

Two out of three, just won’t cut it. All three traits are non-negotiable.

Unless of course, you don’t really want to succeed; if you want to pay lip service you can skip one or more of the aforementioned and you’ll fool a few people but you won’t get anything done.

Vision is a big word, but it can be as simple as an idea or as complicated as a breakthrough innovation. I think it also requires a particular mindset: you have to be aspirational and you have to know where you want to take things.

Examples of vision, courage and urgency abound.

Dollar Shave Club sold this month to Unilever for $1 billion.

Fueled by a clever viral video, Dollar Shave Club took a simple idea—make it easy to buy cheap razors and solved a painful problem. Razors are expensive and they are often kept under lock and key in the pharmacy. Blades are inconvenient to buy and ridiculously priced. But Dollar Shave Club made it easy, they had the courage to go up against industry giants and they had a sense of urgency to make it happen. To learn more visit: https://www.dollarshaveclub.com/blades

A small (but growing fast) hot sauce company I’m involved with also has a simple idea. We think the market leader is old, tired, vinegary, watery and doesn’t taste good. So we created Tabanero, using premium ingredients and a complex recipe that we believe tastes great. We are a long way from a billion dollar exit, but we just gained placement at Publix, Sprouts, Lucky’s and all the big food distributors. We are on our way. We have a vision, we are fearless and we are peddling as fast as we can.

Same with another company we are heavily involved with; Celsius which seeks to disrupt the beverage industry which is filled with iconic giants such as Coke and Pepsi. But Celsius is a healthy alternative to sugary soft drinks and seeks to capture a market that doesn’t want aspartame, sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavors or preservatives. The Celsius team has courage, belief and a tremendous desire to seize the day. Working with people who exhibit these traits is an energizing experience; pun intended.

That mindset translates to cities as well.

Delray’s vision was simple: revitalize a town that had good “bones” and make it a desirable to place to live, work and play.

Now mind you, ‘live, work and play’ is not a revolutionary idea. Thousands of communities have adopted that mantra—but if you look closely only a few had the courage and the sense of urgency to make it happen.

Why? Who knows?

But you can bank on resistance to progress, long lines of protesters, lawsuits and election challenges if you try and make change.

Delray had the courage to do it anyway. And leadership also had a sense of urgency and a desire to take advantage of good economic cycles. Some may call it making hay while the sun shines.

Boca had a vision too. Consider Mizner Park for example. They were challenged, but they persevered and got it done.

Pittsburgh saw its steel mills close but had a vision to reinvent their economy around medicine, education and robotics. Their sense of urgency in doing so was important because without a wholesale reinvention, the Burgh would have sunk into the ooze.

Last week, I got a call, (I won’t say from who) other than he was a property owner who is concerned that Delray has lost its vision and sense of urgency. The guy is not a household name per se in Delray, but he’s owned some strategic pieces over the years. His identity is really not important.

It’s not the first call of this nature that I have received. Mostly, the calls are laments that complacency has set in, political divisiveness too and that the economic cycle may be closer to the end than the beginning and that we didn’t make hay, in fact we chased the hay away.

Yeah, I know development is controversial. And for good reason a lot of times. Some of it, maybe even most of it, can be generic, lacking in imagination, poorly designed and more of the same old, same old.

But that can be fixed. Architects, developers and designers can be and should be challenged to do better.

It’s possible to make places people friendly and to design spaces that complement or improve their surroundings.

Some cities have created design studios to help ensure that projects are the very best they can be.

When famed new urbanist architect Andres Duany came to Delray for a town hall lecture, one of the first things he said was that cities should never make developers and architects guess—they should engage with projects early in the process and shape them so that they enhance the built environment.

Legendary former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley felt that mayors were the primary architects for their cities and had a responsibility to make sure that each project was as good as they could possibly be. Now, truth be told, there are limits. After all, most mayors, including Riley, are not architects or designers, but if they take the time they can learn enough to help make projects look and feel good.

FAU’s Abacoa campus used to have what they called a Florida Public Officials Design Institute, which sadly became a victim of budget cuts. It was a great program; it helped me a lot on the original vision for the Congress Avenue corridor and ideas for the four corners of Military Trail and Atlantic Avenue.

Nationally, there is a Mayor’s Institute for Civic Design which has a stellar reputation.

But there are limits too, I admit. There are property rights and if a developer, with his or her own risk capital wants to build a certain building they have a right to do so—as long as they follow the rules.

Still, most developers I have met are open to being challenged and open to design ideas, if as Duany notes, you engage them early– before they spend big bucks on plans they will be reluctant to toss in the trash.

Mix is important too. I agree with the lament about endless condos, even though I am a firm believer in the need for– and wisdom of –downtown housing if we are to have safe and sustainable urban cores.

But charmless boxes are just that—city codes should encourage good design, varied styles and features that please the public.

But talking about design is a very different conversation than the ones we typically have, which is usually about chasing development away or pretending that we can prevent change. We shouldn’t do the former and we can’t do the latter, even if we wanted to.

We should be talking about design and the very real challenge of how to allow cities to evolve without losing their essence, uniqueness and charm. We should also be talking about mix—how can we encourage cool uses and what’s missing in our community—i.e. workforce housing, co-working, boutique theaters, studio space etc?

That would require vision.

In order to achieve the vision, you need courage.

And in order to drive change, you need a sense of urgency.

If nobody’s waking up every day with a burning passion to make a difference, it tends not to happen. And those communities, businesses and organizations that do have a burning desire will clean your clock before you even know what happened to you.

Place Matters

pLACEA long time  ago, I had a conversation with a close friend that has stuck with me  over the years.
Like many great talks this one began with a question: “is place important to you?”
Could you be happy anywhere or do you have to live in a place that speaks to you in some way?
I’ve been thinking about that lately as I fantasize about a second home somewhere else…Asheville, Portland, Me., New York City (a pipe dream) or Laguna Beach (perhaps an even bigger pipe dream).
I usually have these thoughts a month or so before it begins to get hot and humid in Florida. It’s somehow comforting to imagine to a life where you can escape the humidity for more comfortable climes– at least for a few months.
While this is nowhere near a reality it’s ok for a guy to dream and plot just a little.
When I mention this to friends they say why don’t you just travel and visit different places? But while that’s definitely in the cards, I know in my bones that what I really want is a second home in a place where I care about happens.
Yes, place matters to me. Very much.
So when we travel I often think about what it would be like to live where we visit.
I adore St. Augustine. Would I be happy there?

It’s only four or so hours away, the beaches are beautiful, Jacksonville is close by and the history is amazing.
When we visited Portsmouth, New Hampshire I gobbled up every real estate publication. I thought the downtown was charming, alive and interesting. I loved it.
Asheville’s beauty, craft beer scene and live music is awfully appealing and Maine..well Maine defies description. I just felt happy there. Can’t explain it, but New England is just so comfortable. Like a favorite pair of jeans.
Closer to home I’m passionately in love with downtown Delray. I just love the rhythm, the scale, the energy and the sidewalk cafes. Pineapple Grove is a great street and the nooks and crannies off of Second Avenue are so appealing. Banker’s Row–gorgeous. Third Avenue and Third Street, gritty and cool.
Federal Highway looks and feels great.
In Boca, I enjoy Mizner Park.

Mizner is 25 years old this year and it gets better with age–sure its a “lifestyle center” but it’s a fun place to be. It just is.
Camino Real is a remarkable street and Old Floresta is just beautiful.
Places matter. They feed our soul, impact our mood and can make us think. The best places feel like home, they are warm and inviting. Shelter from the storm, so to speak.
It feels good to be home.

Whenever I’m inside the Crest Theater it just feels good. Memories abound. Same thing when I visit Lake Ida Park and watch the birds. Every great dog I’ve ever had has enjoyed that park so when I visit they are with me. And it feels right.
Yes, place matters. A whole lot.

The Power Of Civic Pride: In the Name Of Love

An image used in Memphis to foster civic pride

An image used in Memphis to foster civic pride

A few years ago, the documentary “My Tale of Two Cities” was released.

The film focused on the revival of Pittsburgh, which hit the skids in a serious way when the steel industry collapsed.

At its heart, the documentary is a love story that chronicles the passion that so many people have for the “Steel City.” But it was also a reminder that emotion plays a huge role in economic development. If people are excited about their community, you can feel it in the air; and that vibe attracts others who want to be a part of things.

Dreams can be contagious, but they only take root if you care enough about your community to dream about it.

If you love a place, your heart soars when it succeeds and it aches when it falls on hard times.

As bad as things got in Pittsburgh, conditions were even worse in Detroit. But a group of passionate people are working wonders to bring that great American city back from the brink just as Pittsburgh has reinvented itself around medicine, education and robotics.

The “Made in Detroit” movement, the amazing efforts of Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert to revive the downtown and the work of artists and entrepreneurs to breathe new life into derelict buildings is nothing short of an act of love.

And of faith.

People love Detroit too much to let it go. So it will come back, maybe not the same as it was, but strong nonetheless.

Yes, emotion plays a huge role in economic development and community building.

Leaders who “get it” try to encourage that love because they know when passion is applied mountains can be moved. When you love something you commit to it, whether it’s a business, a business district, a community garden, a cause, a street, a cultural center or a neighborhood.

We have seen it happen in Delray Beach and in Boca Raton.

I remember when entire sections of Delray were open air drug markets. I remember when you could bowl down Atlantic Avenue at 5 p.m. and not hit anything. Then it changed—it changed the moment people committed to taking back their neighborhoods and rebuilding their downtown. To be sure, physical change can take years, but when the emotional switch is flipped, the energy of a city changes. You’re building…you’re working together…you’re making things happen. It’s electric. And it’s essential.

In Boca, I remember the old mall, the one on US 1 back before they built Mizner Park. It was depressing. It seemed like the all the growth and investment were sprawling west to places beyond 441. But today, east Boca is alive.

The most valuable assets cities have can’t be measured and that’s leadership, love and a sense of community.

If you have those you will see rapid progress, you will be able to handle adversity and you will seize opportunity. If you’re lacking, you’re doomed.

If you can’t find leaders who can build community and inspire people to fall in love, you’re going to struggle and you are going to drift. Sorry, that’s the law. There’s no skirting it.

But, if you do find those special leaders then look out, because now anything and everything possible.

Once a group of people starts believing and dreaming and converting others to their cause, social movements take root and transformational change is not only possible it’s inevitable.

It often starts with a monomaniac on a mission; someone so passionate that you can’t help but buy into their vision.

In Delray, there was Nancy Hurd who believed in helping the poorest, most at-risk children in our community. From that kernel grew the Achievement Center.

There was Frances Bourque, who thought an old broken down old school in a very strategic location could become a cultural beacon and community gathering space. She was right and we have Old School Square as a result when some of the powers that be at the time wanted to level the school and build something else.

There was Rick Overman, who came from Orlando and envisioned a police department that would be devoted to building neighborhoods and making our city safe for investment and a better quality of life. Within a year or two, he changed the culture of the department, enlisted over 1,000 (yes that’s correct) volunteers and not only transformed the department but the city itself.

We had Libby Wesley, who launched the Roots Cultural Festival, because she wanted to showcase the talents of children in the northwest and southwest neighborhoods and there was Norman Radin, who believed a derelict section north of Atlantic Avenue could be a cool place named Pineapple Grove. People thought Norman was nuts—Pineapple Grove was marred by vacant lots and vagrants.

The highlight of the street was a tire store and an old  McCrory’s department store. But Norman believed and before long so did others.

Spencer Pompey sought to integrate the public beach in Delray and drew national attention to his efforts. Mr. Pompey and his wife Ruth were dedicated to civil rights and deeply influenced a generation of leaders.

Vera Farrington wanted to preserve the history of the African American community and started a museum in the former home of a legendary black educator named Solomon Spady.

The list goes on…and Boca has had its share of visionaries too.

According to the Palm Beach County History Museum: “Tom Crocker worked with Boca Raton’s Community Development Agency to replace the failed Boca Raton Mall with a 28.7-acre mixed-use project, Mizner Park, completed in phases throughout the 1990s. Today the center includes 272 homes, a public promenade and park, stores and restaurants, 262,000 square feet of office space, a movie theater, the Count de Hoernle Amphitheater, the Centre for the Arts, and the Boca Raton Museum of Art.”

Prior to the creation of Mizner Park, there were 73 housing units downtown and office rents were the lowest in Palm Beach County.

With voter approval, the City of Boca Raton spent $50 million in infrastructure improvements and $68 million in bond financing to make the project feasible.

It wasn’t easy…controversies resulted in new state laws, a restructuring of the city’s government, higher local taxes, lawsuits, and heavy city debt.

But Mizner Park fulfilled its promise as a stimulant for downtown redevelopment. By 2002, there were 689 housing units downtown and 900 more under construction, and office rents were the highest in South Florida. The resulting 14-fold increase in assessed property values from 1990 to 2002 improved the city’s tax base, although the timing initially proved to be poor economically.

After property values rose again in 2005 Mizner Park started paying for itself. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Mizner Park for removing a blighted property while creating a dynamic meeting place for the community.

Not bad. Sometimes progress takes a while. Sometimes a vision has to struggle before it takes root.

When a community embraces ideas, appreciates passion, works together on a common vision and understands that there is a difference between investment and spending—you begin to see change.

You begin to see value created before your eyes and that momentum builds additional momentum and encourages others to try and create things.

The best leaders I have observed are those who are creators and builders—people who embrace change, but also protect and promote  values and traditions.

It’s not enough to sit on a dais and judge. We need elected officials who seek to understand and build their communities. We need leaders who understand they have a responsibility to create jobs and opportunity and to position their cities for the future.

It’s not enough to sit on your couch and criticize or complain on social media. We need citizens  to organize around positive change. We need citizens who vote, write letters to the editor, blog, join, give, mentor and volunteer.

And most of all, we need citizens to fall in love.

When they fall head over heels— we’ve seen it and experienced it—change becomes easier to digest. It also becomes easier to shape too.

Passion, positivity and vision attract investment—the best kind too.

When investors show up to fund a community’s vision you can actually celebrate your success. Imagine that, feeling good about progress because it advances the dreams, goals and aspirations of citizens.

I see exhaustion in both Delray and Boca—long meetings, campaigns that are negative and development projects met with derision and dread.

Perhaps, it is because we are lacking a unifying vision and so we find ourselves reactive—liking some things, hating others; fixating on numbers—too tall, too dense but neglecting important things like design, affordability and uses that create a sustainable community.

The end result is always division; not consensus, excitement, pride or unity. We set up a system that has winners and losers and whether we win or lose we are exhausted by the fight. And there’s always a fight.

Debates and disagreements are inevitable. Cities are messy places. But I believe—when you are in service to a citizen driven vision—that those disagreements become fewer and your debates more focused.

Just a thought…but it all comes down to leadership and love of community.

 

Thankfulness Disrupts Complaining

Says it all.

Says it all.

Wow, the news  has been grim lately.

Terrorism, fear, violence, threats.  We’re seeing it all, aren’t we?

So it’s understandable if we might be approaching the holidays with some trepidation this year.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving we offer our annual list of things and people who make us thankful.

This list is by no means complete, which is something else to be thankful for. But it’s offered in the spirit of trying to lift your spirit. We hope you enjoy and begin to think about all the things in our community that make us happy.
1. Friday Night Concert Series at The Old School Square Pavilion:

Where else can you sit under the stars for a suggested three dollar donation and hear great music week after week in the midst of the best downtown around? Last week, we caught the B Street Band, a Springsteen tribute band of great renown (they’ve been at it since 1980) and marveled at the age mix and happy faces of people dancing. If you are downtown next Friday at 7:30 make sure to catch a tribute to Tina Turner. Fabulous series, fabulous venue.
2. Delivery Dudes and The Downtowner:

Between these companies and services like Uber,  we now have amazing options for transit and food. We remember when the only option was Domino’s but Delivery Dudes brings the best restaurants in Boca and Delray straight to our doors. The Downtowner is also a cool way to avoid driving. Great concept.
3. Mizner Park:

Sometimes derided as contrived, we like the place and we love the music and restaurants. And based on the crowds, so do many others.
4. The Living Room Theater and Ipic:

There’s still nothing like seeing a movie with others. As great as VOD can be, a movie experience is still better in a theater. Ipic has taken luxury movie going to a new level and Living Room’s programming is spectacular.

5. Lake Ida Park:

A jewel of a park that doesn’t get a whole lot of publicity. But Lake Ida Park has trails, loads of wildlife, great fishing, boating, picnic facilities and a wonderful dog park. Bravo!
6. Evelyn Dobson:

The long time director of Delray’s pioneering and innovative Community Land Trust has done a terrific job building high quality housing in Delray’s northwest and southwest neighborhoods. As the CLT celebrates its 10th anniversary we are grateful for its tremendous work and anxious to see it continue. And we are thankful for Evelyn’s rock solid leadership.
7. Local Rescue Organizations:

We love animals. We really love dogs. And we are so thankful for local rescue organizations. Dezzies Second Chance, Tri County and ARF are just a few of the great organizations serving our community. Personally, we are forever grateful to Kelli Freeman for connecting us with Linda’s Goldens so we were able to adopt Teddy. He has enriched our lives immeasurably.
8. Leaders Who Care:

Cathy Balestriere and Bill Branning are two community leaders who have given a huge amount to Delray. Both serve on Delray’s extraordinary CRA with distinction but that’s only the beginning. Bill chairs Old School Square, supports Delray charities and runs BSA Corporation, one of the area’s leading contractors. He’s a great guy too. Cathy is a brave and outspoken leader who has done a tremendous amount to build Delray’s brand in the world of tourism and hospitality a key industry through her long time involvement with Crane’s Beach House, a unique property. She and her team have found a way to thrive among giants, competing ably with large hotel brands. She has also done a huge amount for local charities through her events at Crane’s. For that and more we are thankful.
9. The staff at Old School Square is lean and awfully effective. They work hard and are dedicated beyond words. We are grateful. It does not go unnoticed.
10. Congress Avenue Task Force:

Personally I am thankful for the 35 plus members who have devoted the better part of the year to envisioning a brighter future for the key corridor.
You couldn’t wish for a better team.
Finally, thanks to you for reading YourDelrayBoca. The blog is a labor of love and we appreciate your support and comments. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Water Cooler Wednesday: Perspective

perspective

Just this week…

One of my favorite people lost her dad to cancer and one of my childhood friends called to tell me his dad was just diagnosed.

In Pakistan, the Taliban butchered 141 people, mostly children at a school. In Yemen, 26 children were killed by terrorists—it barely made the news.

In Newtown, Connecticut, parents marked the second anniversary of the Newtown Massacre and face another holiday season without their children.

In suburban Philadelphia, an Iraq War Veteran killed six family members before taking his own life. It is said that the soldier suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I don’t list these items to depress you, but merely to ask that we exercise some perspective as we navigate the daily inconveniences of our lives.

Last I looked, the sun was shining, gas prices are low, we are using dollars not rubles and the temperature is just delightful.

Downtown Delray Beach is abuzz with activity and people seem happy as they stroll Atlantic Avenue and snap family pictures in front of holiday displays.

We visited Mizner Park this week and it was packed with shoppers and diners. I saw a lot of smiles, despite the long lines at the valet. If waiting for a valet is your biggest concern, you have it pretty good.

Life is fragile.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Clichés, but true nonetheless.

Your world can be rocked by one phone call or simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Here are some of the greats on perspective:

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

― Abraham Lincoln

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty.

I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”

― George Carlin

“The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.”

― Oscar Wilde

 

Weekend Best Bets: Pillow Talk & More

Celebrating the music of Billy Joel

Celebrating the music of Billy Joel

The weekend is here. Be safe and enjoy!

Billy Joel Tribute at Mizner

Friday, August 8th, 2014 at 7:30PM

The City of Boca Raton continues its Friday Night Summer Tribute Series with a tribute to Billy Joel featuring the popular band  Turnstiles.  Say  goodbye to Hollywood, and come Downtown to join friends, neighbors, and fellow music lovers for a great night of live music under the stars. If you think this is a free event, you may be right.  Blankets  and chairs are welcome. Food and beverages will be available for purchase on site. No coolers, outside food and beverages or pets allowed. We will also have chairs available to rent for $5.00. There is free parking at City Hall and the libraries

Mother, Me & The Monsters | Fri, 8/8 7:30pm, Delray’s Arts Garage | Concert Play-reading

 The hilarious and heartbreaking true story of Sam’s relationship with his mother over the course of four dads and three divorces, and his evolving friendship with the monster under his bed. The show was first presented in a workshop production by Barrington Stage and was named a Critic’s Pick by the Boston Globe. From acclaimed composer of “The Trouble With Doug”, Will Aronson, with book and lyrics by Sam Salmond.

   Divorce has never been so much fun! Mention yours when you call for tickets, and receive 10% off. 561-450-6357

The Other Side of the Pillow

Meet Zane at the Spady Museum.

The NY Times Bestselling Author of 30 books, the publisher of Strebor Books an imprint of Simon & Schuster, the Creator – Scriptwriter and Executive Producer of two Cinemax series: Zane’s Sex Chronicles and Zane’s The Jump Off will be at Delray’s Spady Museum Tuesday evening.

To set the mood, you’ll also experience music by saxophonist extraordinaire and Miami native Jesse Jones, Jr. (He’s amazing).

A festive evening with refreshments including wine & cheese, music, prizes and booksigning.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

6pm – 8pm

$20 per person; $35 per couple

  Call 561.279.8883 for more information.

Weekend Best Bets: Bus Loop and Bowling

Burt and Max's is a prime stop on the Delray Bus Loop

Burt and Max’s is a prime stop on the Delray Bus Loop

Three Weekend Ideas:

The Bus Loop: East Meets West

When:  July 19, from 6-11

Cost: $30 at check-in.

East meets west – connecting downtown Delray to Delray Marketplace (at Lyons Rd.).  Hop on one of the free trolleys and check out 12 great restaurant and bar stops, each offering a complimentary drink and/or appetizer.

Support the Delray Center for the Performing Arts and have fun. Sounds like a winner. To register, visit http://www.busloop.org/the_delray_beach_bus_loop.

Check Out Mizner Park

Summer time is a great time to visit Mizner Park.

We are hearing great things about Kapow!, we love Villagio and Rack’s and adore Max’s Grille.

The summer music series is a winner.

Coming soon: John Legend.

Strikes For Life Bowling Tournament

When:  Sunday, July 20, registration 10 a.m., bowling starts at 11 a.m.

How much:  $60 that benefits a good cause

Where:  Strikes @Boca, 21046 Commercial Trail, Boca Raton

What: The Gift of Life is having a Strikes For Life Bowling Tournament on July 20. Fun 21, Eliminator, Brackets & Scratch Pot Games Available, as well as a silent auction and raffles. For more information call 561-982-2900 or email events@giftoflife.org

 

Hey Hey The Monkees are Coming to Mizner Park

Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork are back on tour

Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork are back on tour

The Monkees are back and coming to Boca.

Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork are joining  forces for a nationwide summer tour entitled “A Midsummer’s Night with the Monkees” that will stop at the Mizner Park Amphitheater Saturday, July 27, at 8:00pm

Tickets range from $39.50-$125.00. The show will go on rain or shine. Preferred parking adjacent to the venue can be reserved for $20.00.

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