SWOT Analysis…First In A Series


Years ago, a mentor of mine talked to me about the value of doing what he called a SWOT analysis.

SWOT, stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

It’s a helpful exercise to write down your strengths, weaknesses etc., regardless of the endeavor your involved in.

It’s an old-fashioned, but effective way is seeing where you are.

And it’s always helpful to know where you are.

I just did a SWOT analysis for a start-up hot sauce company that I am involved in. It feels good to list your strengths and opportunities but you better be aware of your weaknesses and threats too.

Looking at Delray these days I see abundant strengths—a great beach, a lively downtown, some nascent entrepreneurial energy and some (but not nearly enough) passionate citizens. I also see great opportunities—the Congress Avenue corridor, a newly beautified and safer U.S. 1 corridor, the potential for sports and interest in our gateway— West Atlantic.

Smart cities—and hot sauce companies– build on their strengths and explore opportunities and never let complacency seep into the culture. So if you’re Delray don’t declare your downtown “done” (rule #1 of downtowns, you’re never done) you look to see if some of the spill over can be accommodated on Congress Avenue or elsewhere and you begin to make some strategic bets on cool opportunities made possible by your strengths.

But you also don’t overlook your threats and weaknesses.

So what are the threats?

Here are a few we see: Drugs, commercial real estate prices and rents that don’t make sense, a lack of affordability on the residential side, gaps in the educational system and political apathy among large segments of the community.

Weaknesses? Inflexible codes (no bonus program, not form-based), a long and exhausting land use approval process, lack of office space downtown and not enough diversity of uses downtown—yet.

Further afield; several struggling commercial districts outside the downtown core and not a lot of housing options.

Let’s take a deeper look at the threats.

Drugs: In the 80s, Delray dealt with a pretty significant crack cocaine epidemic. Many of the officers retiring today after 25-30 year careers can tell you stories that will astound you if you’re new to town. Of course, Delray was not alone. South Florida was awash in cocaine and crack back then. But we were hit especially hard.

Right now, the drug du jour seems to be heroin and flakka. Broward is getting killed with flakka incidents and we seem to be getting our fair share of users. Luckily, we have a Police and Fire Rescue Department skilled in handling the violence, crime and health consequences associated with the problem.

Irrational exuberance in our real estate market is not something we can call 911 to address. With prices for some buildings at $1,300 a square foot, downtown property going for $1 million to over $10 million an acre (not a typo) there are consequences. If you’re selling property, Mazel Tov, your ship has come in. If you’re renting property…well…welcome to rents exceeding $100 a square foot on the avenue.

The consequences are easy to predict: goodbye mom & pop, hello national retailer. If you are a restaurant, you better stay open to 2 a.m. and you better start selling a lot of overpriced drinks and $30 salads. This has demographic consequences that we ought to be talking about and understanding.

I happen to think that this is a phase and that the market will return to some degree of sanity. Others feel this is just the beginning and that Lincoln Road and Worth Avenue rents are here to stay and will only go up from here.

My prediction: we will see a bunch of national retailers signing relatively short term leases. When they realize that downtown doesn’t have enough density and year round foot traffic to support huge rents there will be a shake out and we will either have vacancies or landlords will adjust expectations (hard when you overpaid for real estate) and lower rents to allow independents to come back downtown.

We’ll see if the bulls or the bears are right. And P.S. I do think Atlantic can survive and would even benefit with the presence of some(heavy emphasis on some) national retail, which will drive traffic to hopefully also support independents and regionals. Is there a tipping point? Oh yes. Where? Got me, but please see rule number one: you are never done, downtown is more art than science.

On the residential side, rising property values are mostly a good thing, as long as you are not taxed out of your homes. But, if you are a young family looking to move to Delray or a young professional seeking to live here the costs of entry are significant. We are not talking about low or moderate income housing, but true workforce, e.g. an accountant and a teacher? Or a police officer and a nurse. Where do they live? Right now–and this is anecdotal—Boynton Beach.

Schools are an age old concern, but political apathy is a relatively new one.

In 1990, there were 26,330 registered voters in Delray. When the city elected Mayor Tom Lynch and Commissioners Jay Alperin and David Randolph 41.54 percent of eligible voters showed up.

Mr. Randolph received 7,720 votes.

Last year, Mayor Glickstein garnered 3,726 votes, less than half what Randolph received 25 years earlier in a much smaller city. His opponent, Tom Carney, tallied 3,266 votes. That’s about 16 percent of registered voters. Both candidates spent oodles of cash attacking each other and the city. Their campaigns were devoid of ideas. Sorry guys, it’s true. I kept your literature and use it to speak to kids about how coarse local politics has become.

Does it drive voters away? I think it does. Remember Commissioner Randolph got almost 8,000 votes in a much smaller Delray Beach.

Add Glickstein’s and Carney’s votes together and you get 6,992 votes. Something is wrong. And oh yeah, a whole lot more money is being spent these days chasing fewer voters.

The game has shrunk and that’s not a good thing.

Future posts, will address weaknesses, strengths and opportunities.






  1. Patsy Westall says

    Thanks Jeff…..as a retired “planner” I did many a SWOT with my employers and later, my clients…one of my long term mentors advised me to always begin with the threats and weaknesses – not a place folks usually want to start – but I found that is is almost always true that we cannot identify our strengths an opportunities outside knowing the other. Look forward to your future posts…

  2. Since I retired Dean and I have started going to Maine in the summer. This is a small town on the midcoast with a struggling downtown. It looks like Delray Beach 20 years ago. A midsize power plant is trying to build on city property. The growth vs no-growth residents are equally divided. What they have forgotten is smart growth. Planned development vs taking whatever comes along. A SWOT analysis is truly needed. There greatest asset is they are getting over 40 percent voter turnout. Civic involvement is one of the answers to Delray Beach future as well as this city in Maine

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