Build A Great City

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The adventure took me to Lake Worth last week.

Thanks to the wonderful Danika Dahl (www.I-Love-Delray-Beach.com) and my friend Greg Rice, I had the opportunity to bring some books and some thoughts to Lake Worth last week.

We had a great discussion about cities, downtowns, economic development and local politics with an emphasis on Lake Worth’s enormous potential. I began by emphasizing that they not me were the experts when it came to Lake Worth. While I have visited the city innumerable times and enjoy the downtown, its restaurants, festivals and beachfront casino and pier, I don’t live and breathe the community like people who live and work there do. But I do think there are some universal truths and principles for community building that can work anywhere if they are tailored to local sensibilities. But when it comes down to it, citizens are responsible for creating the identity, look and feel of their city. And each city should strive to have its own personality and style.

Below are the notes I took with me which framed the conversation. I thought I would share. It was a great night, with lots of intelligent discussion, some super ideas and a lot of inspiration. In an age of social media and technology it’s reassuring to see how powerful it is for people to gather and talk as neighbors with a shared passion for creating a great city. Thanks Danika and Greg for the opportunity. Local blogger Wes Blackman–a  really terrific urbanist himself– did a three part series on the evening that I am very appreciative of. You can find Wes’ blog at http://wesblackman.blogspot.com/.

Forge a Vision–

  • Involve as many stakeholders as possible.
  • Elected officials and property owners must be bought in
  • Begin to Implement immediately; prioritize and get going. If you fail to act, the vision fades and you lose the trust of those who volunteer and care.
  • Celebrate and market the small victories; build momentum because success breeds success.
  • City Budgets should reflect the citizens vision.
  • Stick to the vision: it takes time. Stare down the inevitable resistance and have patience and faith.
  • Remember that visions are living and breathing documents, principles should be stuck to, but good visions grow and are flexible to meet changing times.

Visioning tips:

Each city is different. Build on your strengths and assets. Inspiration can come from local history, local art, local architecture and design, but also embrace new ideas and changing times.

Be mindful of your strengths weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Guard against complacency. Don’t let failures or missteps bog you down, learn and move on. Similarly don’t let success make you smug or lazy.

When elections come, pin down candidates on their views of the adopted vision. Do they see themselves as being responsible to making it happen or are they running to upend the vision?

Require participants to put your city first, ahead of personal agendas, petty feuds and egos. Look for servant leaders and avoid those who think they are the smartest people in the room, regardless of the room they are in.

Remind people immediately when they stray…ignoring problems allows them to fester and grow. Insist that the citizen’s vision be honored. Be willing to fight for it—and count on having to do so.

 

Brand your street/downtown/city

What is your city’s style, what’s its promise, what’s its vibe? Once you identify your brand identity: market, promote and relentlessly work to bring people downtown.

Embrace change, but make sure change respects your city and its history. You can’t stop change, but you can shape it. The best visions and brands embrace the past, the present and the future.

Establish a culture of “how may I help you” versus “watch me stop you”. This does not mean compromising standards but it does mean being business friendly and making an effort to land deals and make things happen. Developers and investors don’t mind tough standards but they do require a fair, predictable and timely process.

A vision begins getting old the moment it’s adopted. Every day it lingers its damaged, every day you don’t talk about it people will fail to understand it. A vision is a flame. It needs to be tended to and you need to constantly educate the community of its importance and rationale. A vision is your best economic development tool, it’s what you sell.

Events are important. They bring people to your city. They allow for people to meet, talk and gather.

Public spaces and placemaking are critical. But they must be safe and active while also allowing for quiet enjoyment.

Culture is important too.–the arts are critical. Residents seek them out and so do visitors and companies.

Make sure elected officials are champions of the vision. They need to see themselves as stewards with a responsibility to make the vision a reality and to protect the vision.

If there is no vision or if the vision is shoved off to the sidelines personal agendas will take over, the vacuum will be filled with politics.

You need a team. The right people on the bus in the right seats. And those people need to be able to work together well. That doesn’t mean they will always agree but it means that they are able to overcome differences, trust each other and feel passionate about the vision and mission. Once a decision is made move on; there will be times you agree and times when you disagree.

Positioning is critical. Where does your city fit in the local and regional landscape? Delray did not want to become Boca—as successful as Boca is. Boynton should not be Delray. But city’s also have to know what is possible. Boynton is pursuing an identity as a city friendly to millennials—with workforce housing, breweries, an arts scene and inexpensive space for new companies. It’s a solid strategy/position because it counters Delray which has become expensive and a place where it is difficult to win approvals.

A good place to start

SWOT Analysis-

  • An old fashioned tool, but a good place to begin.
  • Strengths—What are the best things about Lake Worth?
  • My take: Outsiders view…
  1. A whole lot of amenities for a small city. A waterfront park, a real downtown, great history, two main streets, human scale, charming cottages, relatively affordable, a waterfront golf course, a beautiful ocean front casino, a great pier, some great restaurants, walkable. Engaged community, abundance of creatives. Central location in county, near airport and other cities. Diverse and tolerant.
  • Weaknesses

 

  • My take:
  • Crime, vagrancy, lack of residential density to support local businesses and restaurants, lack of industry, derelict properties, sense that Lake Worth has been on the brink for a long time but never quite gets there, vacancies downtown. Financial struggles, aging infrastructure.
  • Opportunities

 

  • My take:
  • Great wealth east of the bridge that could be attracted to shop and dine downtown, a great “old Florida, laid back unpretentious downtown” that has tremendous appeal, historic buildings ripe for adaptive re-use, add downtown housing and small office, co-working, incubation, emphasis on artists, ability to attract people to close-in neighborhoods through some bold program that would clean up and stabilize neighborhoods and grow tax base.
  • Threats

 

  • My Take
  • Politics that might resist change or risk taking, infrastructure issues.

All in all, a terrific night…next week my trip to Naples 5th Avenue and the power of collaboration.

 

 

 

Unity in the Community

alone-we-can-do-so-little

Spirit and connectedness.

I’ve been thinking about those two words lately.

What binds us together as a community, as a state, as a nation?

The word united comes first in our national identity: United States.

We are Americans first and foremost, country before party right?

Right?

Yet, we seem to be living in an age of hyper-partisanship. Red States and Blue States. Liberals and Conservatives. Republicans and Democrats.

The divisions are large and seem to be getting larger. And interestingly enough, the divisions are now extremely pronounced even among members of the same political parties. Establishment versus tea party. Establishment versus the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.

Any student of American history understands that politics has never been a gentle affair–dating back to the days of Jefferson, Adams and Hamilton our nation’s discourse has always been spirited and at times vitriolic and even violent.

But doesn’t this feel a tad different? Isn’t this year perhaps a few degrees beyond the typical?

Is it possible to unite anymore? Are we beyond sharing a common national spirit? Can we connect?

I’ve always been oriented to the local. So that’s the prism in which I view things.

When I began my career in journalism, I aspired to practice community journalism. I had no desire to cover Washington or the world even though I was interested in both.

When I tried politics it was with the goal of serving in local government. I never aspired to work in state or federal government.

I sensed it was easier to find spirit and connectedness in a small city than on a bigger canvas. And that was important to me. If you can find a tribe that’s committed to building community you can experience real progress. I always felt Delray was large enough and diverse enough to be interesting and small enough to get your arms around and make things happen.

And so it has been.

Boca too…although it’s a vastly different place.

For a long period every initiative, every project, every amenity was viewed through a wide lens not a narrow self interest. Did it build community? Did it serve the long term vision of citizens? Was it a net gain or did it detract from what people were trying to build here?

I think the key to spirit and connection is to have a vision.

The vision must be citizen driven and include a process that is inclusive and invites stakeholders to share.

The process is almost as important as the outcome when it comes to visioning; you want to make sure people are invited to share their thoughts and aspirations in a safe environment that encourages intelligent discussion and deep conversations. People should be encouraged to think big but it’s also important to inject facts and best practices into the conversation to drive the process.

The best visioning exercises are community builders; civic projects that bring people together.

In my mind, that was the real value of the All America City Award which required people to work together in an effort that inevitably tore down barriers and built civic pride.

It’s hard to do this on a national level, but possible. It seems nationally, we rally when threatened; in times of war or terrorism.

On a city level it’s not easy but it’s essential and very doable.

That was Delray’s secret sauce.

And it worked.

When visions are accomplished or grow old and need refreshing and leadership fails to take the time to do bottom up planning you inevitably end up with drift, division and an erosion of civic bonds.

After several successful visioning processes, Delray rushed a visioning process ahead of a mayoral election and major staff upheaval a few years back.

The timing was horrible and the process and its aftermath felt different–somewhat empty not energizing as previous efforts had been.

As a result, Visions 2020 has been mothballed.  It doesn’t drive conversations or inform decision making and even connected citizens can’t remember what it said.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try again or that visioning is flawed.

Smart elected officials welcome exercises that build community and forge visions. It helps them make decisions: if something fits the vision you support it. If something is contrary you vote no.

But without a vision there is no real direction– just ad hoc decision making, personal preferences, a whole lot of politics and people feeling disconnected.

Small cities have an option to bring people together. Only the small minded, egotistical and optically driven elected official can’t see that logic. A word to the wise: nobody cares what individual elected officials think. Your job is to forge a vision by bringing as many smart, caring and committed people to the table as you can. That’s leadership because nobody cares if you don’t like the color of a snow fence or the taste of garlic.

It’s not your town or your staff, it all belongs to the stakeholders–those that hold  a stake. Elected officials are stewards and ultimately they work for us; or at least they should.

Congress lost that truism a long time ago. There’s no excuse for local government to follow suit.

 

Mysteries Revealed: The Gateway

Unifying east and west

Unifying east and west

Editor’s Note: An occasional series in which we go beyond the headlines to provide some needed institutional memory.

Today’s mystery: the origins of the “gateway feature”

Way back in 2000-01, a group of concerned citizens met to discuss the future of downtown Delray Beach.

The goal was to create a Downtown Master Plan—which sounds sinister but really was nothing more than an open process to forge a common vision for how to support a sustainable year-round downtown.

Countless meetings were held. Experts were hired. Data was generated and then shared in an effort to build on work that was done in the 80s and 90s by visionary citizens, city planners and elected officials. While it was a fun process, the Master Plan was conceived in the wake of a bitter debate.

In 1998-99, the city went through a bruising battle over a project called “Worthing Place.” The CRA had aggregated land downtown in what was known as Block 77. Developers were invited to present concepts and a local team was chosen to build condos with ground floor retail or restaurant space. The project was six stories tall—60 feet, the city’s maximum height. And it was 93 units to the acre.

The developers promised to build parking for the project and a separate public parking garage on First Avenue, which would later be named the “Federspiel Garage” after a beloved local attorney—Bob Federspiel– who had died tragically in an accident in North Carolina.

The Worthing Place project led to years of expensive lawsuits, with the city prevailing each time. But what was supposed to be the first downtown mixed-use housing project had actually ended up being among the last built thanks to the delays caused by litigation. The “for sale” condos became high end rentals. Today, when I show visitors the project and tell them the story about how divisive the battle was, they can hardly believe me. Worthing Place has become a valuable residential property and its businesses including Salt 7, a charming market and the wonderful Park Tavern have become local hot spots creating lots of jobs. Opponents feared traffic and said the building would resemble a tenement filled with raucous residents. They were mistaken.

The Master Plan process was designed to avoid future feuds over downtown development. We were a tad naïve I suppose. But the process was inclusive and included lots of opportunities for the community to learn about urban design, how traffic behaves in a downtown and what we would need in terms of uses and densities in order to create a sustainable and complete downtown.

Our major funder for the plan was the wonderful MacArthur Foundation, which at the time was very prominent in Palm Beach County. The foundation was active in our northwest and southwest neighborhoods which around that time were also heavily involved in a master planning/visioning process.

It was decided that it made sense to develop synergies between the various planning efforts and one of the earliest and most important decisions we made was to include the West Atlantic gateway and streets to the north and south as part of our Downtown Master Plan.

This was an historic; some might say landmark decision, to redefine the geography of our downtown to extend from I-95 to the ocean. Historically, and rhetorically when we referred to downtown Delray it was always East Atlantic Avenue—from Swinton to A1A. As a result of the master plan, downtown’s borders would expand and we would try to erase the Swinton dividing line; a major goal of race relations which was a front burner effort at the time.

Once the decision was made to expand the downtown to the Interstate, we (the hundreds and hundreds of citizens who participated) decided that we needed to make a design statement to signal to visitors and residents alike that when they exited I-95 they were entering a very special place—downtown Delray Beach.

That’s an important distinction to make. And it needs to be said. Because over the years, the bean counters have failed to grasp that important nuance. We. Wanted. To. Make. A. Statement.

We thought it was important to do so. We thought it would change the look, feel and brand of our downtown gateway and I think it has. We also wanted to unify the east and the west.

Great cities and great businesses don’t become great by accident or because they declare themselves so. There’s a moment—or a series of moments—when communities say “go”. Let’s go for it. Let’s be special. Let’s be different. Let’s be great. And then they plan, strategize and execute. That’s what happened in Delray Beach and what hasn’t happened in so many cities. They never say go…instead they waffle, they wring their hands, they hedge or they simply pronounce but lose the courage to follow through. And make no mistake, it takes courage to follow through. There’s always opposition, always controversy and obstacles to overcome.

Delray made a decision to “go” way back in 1984 when Mayor Doak Campbell formed the Atlantic Avenue Task Force, they doubled down on that decision with Visions 2000, Visions 2005 and the Downtown Master Plan.

Now back to our story…

After trotting out various design schemes, including a building in the median (which was rejected by the Department of Transportation), it was decided to move ahead with a large public art installation to be mostly paid for by the CRA. Total cost: about $1.2 million, with about $980,000 coming from the CRA and the rest from a state grant.

A team of residents and city staff worked with an artist (Michelle Newman) and eventually a design was chosen.

But the project didn’t happen right away. A lot of other stuff did—like the beautification of Northwest/ Southwest Fifth Avenue, the addition of paver bricks, decorative lighting and landscaping from Swinton to 95 and more–about $60 million invested on the West Atlantic corridor from 2000 forward by our CRA.

Still, the gateway came a little later but only after the CRA and citizens went back to commissioners to make sure they were still OK with the project. They were repeatedly assured that the gateway project was an important one and so it was built.

You may like it (I do) or you may loathe it. That’s what happens with art…I remember when the Public Arts Advisory Board commissioned a large piece on South Federal Highway and people went ballistic. I’m talking about the red noodle like sculpture near Knowles Park. I think it’s Ok, others don’t like it. Art is meant to be discussed and that piece certainly sparked conversation.

But the larger point is, the gateway is a statement. It says welcome to downtown Delray and it also says that this city is willing to invest west of Swinton which it has, largely through the unsung efforts of its CRA in partnership with neighborhoods and groups such as WARC. And largely as a result of the master plan, West Atlantic visioning, the Southwest Plan and the West Settler’s Historic District initiative we are beginning to see returns on that investment in the form of private development and new businesses. This is how it works, folks. Cities say “go” and execute and investors know its safe to make bets on your town.

Are more sidewalks needed? Certainly. Nobody is arguing that point. But come on, look around and take some time to enjoy the investment that has been made—plazas, a water park, a library, Spady Museum and yes a gateway feature.

Great cities—and Delray Beach is a great city—invest and reinvest in themselves. The return on that investment is quality of life, quality of place, quality of community and the spurring of private investment, which the West Atlantic corridor is getting (Atlantic Grove, Fairfield Inn, the Equity Project).

So when I see a suit stand up and take political pot shots at the gateway and moan about how poor and broke we are ($30 million plus in reserves, double digit property value increases, at least a half billion in investment dying to come here) I chuckle. As my beloved late mom used to say “we should all be that broke.”

If only we didn’t spend on the gateway…

If only we didn’t have a library…

If only we didn’t build that tennis stadium and try to put something in the place…

If only we didn’t have our own fire department…

If only we didn’t have an Arts Garage or festivals or an Old School Square or a CRA.

If only we would just pick up the trash and make sure the toilets flush—then our “problems” would be solved but we wouldn’t be Delray would we?

No, we would not.

 

Vision

Vision is imperative

Vision is imperative

Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting with a friend who is hard at work on a book about mayors.

The book is focused on mayoral leadership and the author’s premise is that successful mayors articulate or champion a vision, involve the public, put a team in place to implement the vision and exercise political will to ensure that the vision is accomplished when the inevitable opposition to change arises.

It’s all good stuff. But what intrigues me is the author’s premise that cities need to create a new vision every 25 years or they will run into trouble.

I agree with that. And doing the math, I’d say that Delray is due a new or renewed vision.

The best visions are community building exercises in which all major stakeholders are engaged and asked to participate.

Delray’s revitalization began in the late 80s, when a group of committed citizens working alongside city staff developed Visions 2000.

Visions 2000 served as a blueprint for the next decade of policymaking and informed spending for the next ten years. It also enabled the passing of the landmark $21.5 million Decade of Excellence Bond, in which citizens voted to go into debt in order to improve the community.

Why? Because they not only believed in the vision, they helped to craft it. They also had faith in local government to deliver.

The Decade of Excellence helped to usher in a lot of private investment; business owners, homeowners, restauranteurs and developers began to risk capital because they believed in Delray and were excited by the vision. I can think of no more valuable economic development tool than to have an exciting vision.

But you can’t stop at a vision, you have to implement and Delray did so–remarkably well.

When the Decade of Excellence wrapped up and the projects were completed, a new vision for the downtown was formed –again with an inclusive process. While Visions 2000 brought a representative sample of citizens together, the Downtown Master Plan invited everybody willing to show up to the table.

In all, over 500 people participated in the charrette, plus several hundred who visited temporary design studios set up on Swinton Avenue.

Immediately upon completion, a steering committee in charge of the plan, morphed into an implementation committee which prioritized projects and worked with staff and related agencies to get projects designed, funded and under way. The process worked and unlike other cities that let plans sit on a shelf, Delray delivered.

But like everything else in a fast-changing world, visions need to change to meet current needs and aspirations.

As a result of past good work, Delray has a ton of options and possibilities that it didn’t have when the journey started 30 years ago.

We dreamt of creating a place attractive to the creative class and now they are here.

We dreamt of creating a vibrant food and beverage scene and it happened. Now the challenge is to move beyond food and beverage.

We dreamt of creating a walkable community with downtown residential options and mixed use projects and saw it happen.

We dreamt of becoming a cultural beacon for the region and it happened with the redevelopment of Delray Center for the Arts,  The Arts Garage and now Artist’s Alley and other efforts.

Parts of the vision are incomplete and or didn’t quite happen, but a great deal of it did. And it should be a source of enormous civic pride.

But complacency is a killer and cities should never rest on their laurels. Downtown is never done, we used to say. Success is never permanent and hopefully failure is never fatal.

Cities are not a zero sum game, you can concentrate on downtown and the neighborhoods. You can promote West Atlantic Avenue and Congress Avenue.

And you should.

 

Water Cooler Wednesday: Design & Use

Vibrant, fun and beautiful. Our Delray

Vibrant, fun and beautiful. Our Delray

In the 90s, Delray Beach was making great progress.

The city was successfully completing its “Decade of Excellence”, a $21.5 million bond issue program that beautified downtown, repaired aging infrastructure, fixed streets and drainage and refurbished parks and fire stations.

 Significant public investment was made in the downtown, including a complete reconstruction of the streetscape; the preservation and reuse of Old School Square (an abandoned school) and the renovation of the Municipal Tennis Center including the addition of a tennis stadium built to host a women’s event on what was then called the Virginia Slims tour.

The public investment was the result of an in-depth civic visioning process that unified the city. Back then, there were divides between east and west, black and white, police and residents etc.

Visions 2000 and the resulting Decade of Excellence bond proved the power of civic engagement, visioning and detailed conversations about the direction of our community.

That power was verified when voters overwhelmingly voted to tax themselves and go into debt in order to build a better city. It was also an opportunity for the downtown to be thought as belonging to everyone as it was positioned as a gathering place for the entire community, an amenity for all to enjoy.

When the bond projects were first announced, communities west of I-95–at the time a major voting bloc– balked somewhat because the spending was concentrated on older eastern neighborhoods and the downtown. But by the time it came to vote western residents were convinced that Delray was one community and if a neighborhood had needs it was important for other neighborhoods to show support.

In the late 90s, still hoping to jumpstart downtown, the CRA issued an RFP for Worthing Place, which was slated to be the first major mixed use downtown project.

The project was hugely controversial when a developer team proposed a six story, 90 plus unit per acre project on the site.

The project seemed to divide the city in two; with proponents saying it was needed and opponents saying it would ruin the downtown forever and eventually end up as a tenement type building.

The debate was heated and ugly. When the commission approved the project, a series of lawsuits were filed that took nearly seven years to resolve, with the city winning every case.

But the suits, while legally unsuccessful, delayed the project and the development team missed the hottest real estate market in memory. The terms of RFP also required them to build a public parking garage before they broke ground on the actual project, a huge cost for the developers but a big bonus for the city.

While the project was voted on by a prior commission, the commission’s I served on beginning in 2000 inherited the angst caused by concerns over height, density and development.

So we decided in 2001 to create a Downtown Master Plan and to engage the community in a deep discussion over how our downtown– now defined as spanning from A1A to I-95 with a few blocks north and south of Atlantic Avenue–should look and feel. I co-chaired that effort with a neighborhood leader named Chuck Ridley.

The Downtown Master Plan included discussions about a range of issues including: the viability of downtown retail, the importance of people living downtown, the need for employment beyond food and beverage, the importance of design and the need to expand opportunities west of Swinton. We talked about development without displacement, the need to build a complete and sustainable downtown and the importance of slowing traffic and making it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get around town. The discussion also included the need to buffer neighborhoods and even included race relations and heart felt conversations about workforce housing, historic preservation and creating a community where our kids and grandkids may want to return. It was the single most rewarding experience of my civic life and it culminated in a charrette that attracted a record crowd.

When our partners in the process, the terrific people at the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, set up design studios on Swinton Avenue they had to work late into the night because people poured in to share their thoughts and vision for their city.

When the dust cleared and people went home from the charrette, I remember feeling an incredible sense of pride in the process and the level of debate. This was not an “all developers are evil and greedy” exercise nor was it an all people who are concerned “are NIMBY’s who must be bulldozed” process, it was an inclusive, intelligent and rewarding civic bonding experience, the kind of experience you can’t have at any other level of government. It took time, it cost money (although the MacArthur Foundation graciously underwrote much of the cost) but it was worth it.

But before I could reach my car at the conclusion of the charrette, I was stopped by Marcela Camblor, the amazing planner/designer who worked with us as part of the Treasure Coast team. She told me that support for the Master Plan would never be stronger than it was at this moment in time and that with every day that passed; support for the plan would wane.

Now, this was a depressing message to hear and frankly it puzzled me at first. But then I got it. Marcela’s message was you better start implementing and you can never stop educating and talking to the community. Because while almost 500 people showed up for the final meeting, 60,000 stayed home despite our efforts to get them to participate.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that as our commission votes on new Land Development Regulations beginning next week; I think we missed an opportunity to have another conversation.

The Mayor did a wonderful job of bringing thought leaders to Delray as part of a speaker series, but too few people attended and I’m not sure based on my reading of the proposed changes that we are taking the advice of the experts we brought here (just my opinion; I am not a planner).

The lessons from the Master Plan that we took away was that density did not matter as much as design; and to prove the point our consultants showed us pictures of ugly low density projects and beautiful high density projects and vice versa.

I think what matters most is good design, which admittedly is hard to codify, define and regulate. I remember catching hell from residents on projects that I liked and scratching my head at some others that people found appealing but I thought were ugly or generic.

We tried to install Design Guidelines and had to change them when architects and developers told us they were simply unworkable. Still, I think a form based code that does not get hung up on numbers, setbacks, floor area ration etc. etc. may be what we need. Perhaps, we can create a design studio like other cities have done where architects and developers can take their projects for some early feedback and advice on local sensitivities and desires.

I read the proposed changes to the LDR’s and it feels prescriptive to me; part form based and part old school zoning and I wonder if it will truly address what people are concerned about.

My read is that people are concerned about traffic, design and use; i.e. too many apartments, chain stores, cookie cutter architecture and overbuilding of what can be financed instead of what is needed or desired—like office space (creative not just class A).

I could be wrong about the proposed changes and I hope I am. But I’m proud of that master plan and what it brought to our town in terms of investment and quality of life.

 We have a vibrant downtown, full of energy and people and that didn’t happen by accident, it happened as a result of a smart plan, good codes, great developers, citizen input, vision and political leadership that engaged, educated and defended the vision. I also think city staff should be given lots of credit as well.

We are not a perfect city by any stretch and we are not done either. There is so much left to do. But I’m not convinced that Delray needs radical surgery, nor do I think we should argue over numbers or six feet in height. I do think we ought to look at our performance standards to encourage uses that we need and take another whack at better design.

Good plans are meant to be flexible and change with the times so I don’t come at this issue saying the master plan should be sacrosanct. Much of it was accomplished and I think we have a better city as a result. But I do have a sense that we skipped an important step—i.e. engaging the community in an intelligent conversation about where we want to go from here.

Some want to stop or slow things down and that point of view should be respected. Others want more of what we have and feel we are on the precipice of attaining some things we have long desired—including opportunities beyond food and beverage.

But we need a plan to attract and retain artists and we clearly don’t have enough office space to house the entrepreneurs who are attracted to our community.

I’m not sure we soothe fears or improve uses or design through numbers and setbacks. Just my opinion. I do know that we can make a dent through dialogue and visioning. We have done it before, with spectacular results. We should consider doing it again.