Things We Loved in February

At 6’11” Reilly Opelka is the tallest player on tour. He’s also the new Delray Beach Open champ.

Things We Loved In February

We know the month is not quite over, but close enough.

Attending the Delray Beach Open.
Nothing like watching world class tennis under the stars on a beautiful February night.
Kudos to Match Point for producing a great event.
The addition of hometown fave Coco Gauff was a master stroke. Coco played an exhibition under the lights against the NCAA champion. Great stuff.
Congratulations to the Bryan Brothers on their record sixth Delray Beach title. The brothers—arguably the best doubles duo ever—come to Delray every year and have been great supporters of the event and the city. They will be retiring so it was great to see them go out with a win.

Also congratulations to Reilly Opelka who battled weather and determined opponents to claim the singles title. He may be someone to watch. He is hard to miss at 6’11” with a serve in the 140 mph range. He has a big future and the Delray event is becoming known as the place that launches stars: i.e. Frances Tiafoe, Kei Nishikori.

Seeing Doris Kearns Goodwin at FAU. She packed them in like a rock star and we could have listened to her for hours and hours. Just a wonderful storyteller.

Having the great and vastly underrated Steve Forbert play The Arts Garage.
A great performer and wonderful songwriter, Forbert is a joy to watch and listen too. Although we were forced to give our seats away, we were told he was great and drew a big crowd. I’ve seen him several times and won’t miss him again if he comes back this way.

Art on the Square—in a word: terrific.

The new Whole Foods on Linton looks great. A most welcome addition.

Another whopper of a real estate deal: Menin Development’s $7.3 million acquisition of Johnnie Brown’s.
That’s not a typo.

February weather. We are reminded why we live here. Crisp mornings, gorgeous days and cool nights. And don’t forget the Florida sunsets.

Black History Month is a good time to learn about some of our local African American icons.
Visit the S.D. Spady Museum for a great primer and see if you can find C. Spencer Pompey’s book “Many Rivers to Cross.”

We wish Pedro Andrade well with his new restaurant Valentina’s Pizza and Pasta on Congress Avenue in Lake Worth Beach.
Pedro did an amazing job serving the community for years at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza never turning down a good cause. We plan to visit his new place ASAP.

We had some monumental birthdays in February.
Zack Straghn, a long time civil rights leader, celebrated his 92nd birthday and Bob Levinson, an author, business leader and philanthropist turned 95.
Lots of wisdom and accomplishments between those two gentlemen.
We wish them many more years of making a difference.

We tried Cena on 7th Avenue and it was wonderful.
A great place to spend Valentine’s Day.
I had the pollo parmigiano and it was spectacular. It’s also huge– so we made two meals out of it.
Don’t miss the buttered noodles and the tartufo.

Heartfelt condolences to the Dubin and Evert families on the loss of Jeanne Evert Dubin.
Jeanne was a really nice person and was a terrific tennis player herself during a brief pro career rising to number 28 in the world and top ten in the United States.
She was an owner of Dubin & Associates which manages the Delray Golf Club and Delray Tennis Center.
On a personal note, Jeanne was just a super nice person. She loved tennis, preferring to be on the court teaching or leading tennis leagues. She had a quiet influence.
She will be deeply missed.

We also offer sincere condolences to the pioneering Love family on the loss of  Marsha and Barbara Love.

Until next month…..

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.

 

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: Swim, Seek and Celebrate

The S.D. Spady Museum commemorates the end of slavery in America.

The S.D. Spady Museum commemorates the end of slavery in America.

The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson

On Friday, June 20, Pompey Park Pool will join aquatic facilities across the country and around the globe in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™ (WLSL), an effort to bring awareness about the importance of teaching children to swim.  In addition, the WLSL will attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest simultaneous swimming lesson ever conducted! 

The City’s Parks and Recreation Department, in collaboration with the Delray Beach Police Department, Delray Beach Fire-Rescue, the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County and the American Red Cross, will provide a free 30-minute swimming lesson.  Certified lifeguards and water safety instructors will follow an easy lesson plan suitable for beginners and any level of swimmer.

In order to participate in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™ and be part of the world record attempt, children and adults must register on the day of the event between 10:00am – 10:45 am at Pompey Park Pool, 1101 NW 2nd Street.  The lesson begins at 11:00 am sharp.  (Note:  Pool fees will be waived between 10:00 am – 11:30 am).  

Help spread the word “Swimming Lessons Save Lives” by participating in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™.  For more information, contact Gerard Smith, Pompey Park Pool Aquatics Operations Supervisor, at (561) 243-7358 or E-mail smithg@mydelraybeach.com.

Celebrate Juneteenth

The S.D. Spady Museum will celebrate “Juneteenth”  Friday with music, art and fun activities at the museum, 170 N.W. 5th Ave.

The event begins at 5:30 and runs to 8:30 and features The Ike and Val Woods Band and interactive art by local artist Sharon Koskoff.

Cost is $25, $10 for youth, children under 5 are free.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

Visit www.spadymuseum.org for tickets and more information.

 

 

Comedy at The Arts Garage

Delray’s Arts Garage is not known for comedy. But comedy is an art and so…this Saturday check out Dean Napolitano at 8 p.m.

 Napolitano is a throwback to the great comedians of yesteryear only with a modern twist that makes him one of the most popular comedians working today. A true storyteller, Napolitano’s observations are sure to make you laugh and think.

Visit www.artsgarage.org for more information.

 

Seek in the City

If you are into scavenger hunts that benefit charity, there is still time to sign up for Seek in the City.

The event takes participants throughout downtown Delray Saturday where they solve mysteries and seek to edge out their fellow friends and colleagues.

Sounds like fun right?
For more information visit
http://www.seekinthecitydelray.com/