IPIC: Because Delray Needs Jobs


The sky has been falling for 20 years.
Paver bricks on Atlantic Avenue–women will never come downtown because they will trip in their heels on the grooves.
Worthing Place–it will turn into a low income rowdy tenement.
Pineapple Grove–a pipe dream.
Atlantic Avenue–won’t happen without an “anchor” department store.
Townhouses on Federal Highway–nobody wants to live on a highway and besides where will they barbecue?
I can go on.
But needless to say plenty of women and men enjoy strolling on the avenue, Worthing Place is fully leased (and pricey) and you hardly know it’s there, Pineapple Grove is a cool street, we didn’t need a department store to revitalize Atlantic Avenue and townhouses on Federal Highway remain hot commodities.
So I tend to grin when I hear the latest hand wringing concern–whether it’s festivals “destroying” our quality of life or development choking our city to death.
But before you get all wound up at my cavalier attitude let me say two things.
First, I respect contrary opinions so please respect those who don’t agree with your assessment of the latest project.
Second, I’m not an anything goes guy either.
We have had good developers and we have had awful ones.
In my opinion most of our developers have been good corporate citizens. There I said it. And I can prove it too.

We have been fortunate that most of our projects have been built by local developers who live here, work here, pay taxes, volunteer and raise their families here too.
Not all are greedy and callous. In fact, we have been fortunate to have many who are the opposite.
Sure they are motivated by profit and they seek a healthy return. Last I checked, we live in a capitalistic society where profits are a goal.
But profit motive aside, many of the developers  I have known want to build projects that work for the city as well as their wallets. Most also give to charity, have served on community boards and are in a field where the risks are enormous.
In other words developers are people too. You wouldn’t have known that from our last municipal election.
We are better than the current state of our development debate.
Still, the concerns are legitimate. We should seek smart growth which I would define as human scale, well-designed, with green elements, pedestrian friendly, mixed use where possible and oriented toward the street.
Projects that aren’t should be sent back to the drawing board.
But that’s where the opportunities are…
When a good use comes to town— say a downtown theater– that includes corporate jobs, office space and other desirable facets we should communicate with the developer/investors collaborate with them and where possible shape the best outcome.
Collaboration: what a concept.
Now if they don’t listen– and a few won’t— send em packing.

But most developers I have known will listen because they want to their projects approved and don’t necessarily enjoy being pariahs.
It’s easy to pontificate from a dais or wall off your planners and other city resources. But really what does that accomplish?
I had two experiences where we sent developers packing because they simply would not listen to community and city input. But I had many more where our CRA or Planning Department were able to make projects better because they looked at site plans and found things to improve whether it was design, traffic flow or street level orientation. You got to give your staff some room to make things work and as a policymaker you have a unique opportunity to make improvements as well.
Collaboration works, unless of course, you think Delray stinks. A few of you do, but most of you don’t.
So why not work to make projects better?
And if you think that we should merely shut the town down and say no more I have some disappointing news. It’s not going to happen.
Delray is a wildly desirable market. Not because it’s been ruined but because it was carefully planned and is a great town. People want to be here. People want to live here. People want to work here and people want to invest here.
They don’t want to ruin it, they want to contribute. If their ideas make sense we ought to help them. And we need to engage early, as Andres Duany advised us at one of the first town hall lecture series meetings.
If developers have bad ideas we ought to intervene–early.  If they are tone deaf, again send them packing. Smart developers, the kind we want to work in our town, welcome input and collaboration. It saves them time, money and aggravation. It also saves the public time, money and aggravation.
“Just say no” may have been a great anti-drug slogan but it’s no way to run a railroad. People are going to want to build here. We ought to worry if they don’t.
As for IPIC… when the RFP came out I liked the European theater concept..still think that would work elsewhere in our city.
But I’ve warmed up to IPIC. I like the idea of entertainment downtown. I like that it will bring people during the slow summer months and I love that this is a corporate headquarters deal with hundreds of jobs.
We need the jobs. We need the daytime workers. Jobs sustain towns.
We can also plan for the traffic. We know when shows begin and end. This developer/business owner has stepped up and listened.
Downtown residents will walk to the movies and others will drive–most with other people. After all, when is the last time you went to the movies alone?

We are not putting in a multiplex, but a luxury theater, with a few hundred seats.
This is a good project and we ought to be proud that Delray is desirable for such a cool and growing company.
The sky will not fall.

Water Cooler Wednesday: 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


Water Cooler Wednesday: Remember When

1984 Boca High Yearbook photo taken at Dirty Moe's.

1984 Boca High Yearbook photo taken at Dirty Moe’s.

Six months from today I will turn 50 years old.

Just writing that sentence feels surreal, actually turning 50 (the big 5-0) is something that I guess I have six months to get used to.

But one of the best parts of getting older is you gain perspective that can you only earn through actual experience.

I moved to Delray Beach in July of 1987, about a month before my 22nd birthday. I had taken a job as a reporter at the Boca-based “Monday-Thursday” papers, a large group of weekly newspapers that were owned—for the first week of my employment anyway—by the corporate parent of the International Herald Tribune. I thought that was pretty cool at the time. But a week or so later, we were called together in the newsroom for a meeting. Worrell Enterprises out of Virginia had bought us. Little did I know at the time that the owner of the chain, Tom Worrell, would end up playing a major role in a city I was covering as a cub reporter. I had zero clue I would ever be mayor (Mayor!) of Delray. And for the record, I never formally met Tom until I was mayor, even though I worked for him for nearly 10 years.

Such is the serendipity of life, which is why I actually don’t really mind getting older—I’m certain the adventures will continue.

Back in 1987, Boca and Delray  were very different places—from each other and from what they are today. But some things never change. Delray has always had a magnificent beach, even if the downtown was dormant at the time and the nickname of the city was “Dull Ray.”

Boca was home to IBM and while Big Blue is no longer the big player it was, the city is still home to many tech companies and feels way more “corporate” than Delray.

Back in those days, we’d go to Dirty Moe’s after our deadline to compare notes and share stories about local politicians and colorful characters we had interviewed.  That old bar with the cheap, cold beer and great wings was owned by former Mayor Emil Danciu of Boca.

You can still visit Dirty Moe’s on Facebook and buy vintage Moe’s t-shirts from the 80s through Etsy, but Tom Sawyer restaurant, is very much around and I still go once a week. It was the first place I ever visited in South Florida on my very first day of work. I was treated to lunch there that day by my new boss– a city editor named—Tom Sawyer. Nope, you can’t make it up.

The Monday-Thursday Papers are gone, sadly– because the hyper local coverage they provided was really a benefit to the community. We were the community “water cooler” and for a young reporter it was a great place to hone your chops. We would write 5-7 stories a week, plus news briefs and a police blotter. We also did man and woman on the street interviews, until some enterprising reporter started to go to a local “gentleman’s club” where he would ask the week’s question of the dancers. That didn’t set well, with Mr. Sawyer as you can imagine.

Boca looked a lot different back then. FAU was known as “Sleepy U”, and was mostly a commuter school. There was no stadium and no football.

Mizner Park wasn’t built yet, but there was a depressing mall where Mizner now sits.

Delray had a depressing mall of its own, on the corner of U.S.1 and Linton Boulevard. I remember shopping for last minute holiday gifts just before Christmas and being almost the only shopper in the place.

Atlantic Avenue was sleepy as well. You could have bowled on the avenue after 5 and not hit anything.

I did love The Green Owl (still do) and a place called Ken and Hazel’s, where Vic and Angelo’s  sits.

Rents on the avenue were as low at $5 a square foot. I just heard that the site for the recently closed Linda Bean’s went for over $130 a square foot. Times have sure changed.

West Atlantic Avenue was home to the Paradise Club and it wasn’t uncommon to see several hundred people hanging on the avenue on a Sunday night. I spent lots of nights riding with the local police. It was the height of the crack cocaine epidemic and Delray got hit real hard.

There was a rivalry between Boca and Delray back in the 80s and 90s. I don’t see it as much now, but maybe I’m missing it.

Legend has it that there was a sign in the Boca Planning Department that implored applicants to “Do It Our Way Or Do It In Delray.”

Not sure if that was actually true, but the people in Delray believed it and it spurred them to shore up the city’s standards. I used it myself two weeks ago when I spoke at Nova Southeastern U.

They were fun days. Being a reporter in Boca-Delray back in the mid 80s was an adventure. A truly great job where you met interesting people, wrote about fascinating topics and got paid next to nothing.  But hey…we were young and we were learning.

Still, I don’t find myself pining for the good, old days. I kind of like what happened in Delray and in Boca too. This is a fascinating place to live, with lots of opportunities and cool things to see and do.

I wish the old Monday Thursday papers would crank up again though. Or even the old Boca News, which I edited for a brief period before it was sold. But until such time, we’ll share some stories right here on yourdelrayboca.com

Thanks for reading… and when Dave throws me my party in six months drinks are on him. It’s the least he can do.



Weekend Best Bets: Valentine Edition

A little blue goes a long way...trust us.

A little blue goes a long way…trust us.

We’re going to veer from our regularly scheduled program, for a special Valentine’s Day edition of weekend best bets.

Suffice it to say, the Champions Tour and Delray Open kick off this weekend with Andy Roddick, the Bryan Brothers, Mats Wilander and more. In addition, the Arts Garage has another incredible line-up of shows and visual art this weekend. Visit www.yellowtennisball.com and www.artsgarage.org for more information.

Instead of our usual array of cultural offerings, we’re going to give you our three choices for a romantic weekend in Boca-Delray.

  • Take a romantic stroll on the beach: Boca and Delray beaches are made for walking. The north end of Delray may be a little noisy do to dredging but try Atlantic Dunes or A1A at Palmetto Park Road for a sunset or sunrise stroll. We’d encourage you to bring a bottle of bubbly, but it’s not allowed. If you’re in Delray drop by Caffe Luna Rosa, 50 S. Ocean or Boheme Bistro for great wine or visit N2 a hot new wine bar in Pineapple Grove (n2winebar.com).
  • Nothing is more romantic than cooking for your beloved, but on Valentine’s Day you will want to spice it up.

We recommend a hot new sauce called Tabanero, based right here in Boca. Disclaimer: (I am a shareholder) but it’s really delicious and its all natural too. Tabanero can be paired with pizza, eggs or even chocolate. Visit www.tabanero.com for more information.

  • At yourdelrayboca.com we are big on shopping local. So we recommend, that you hit Atlantic Avenue, Artist’s Alley and the Mall at Town Center sometime this weekend to pick out a special gift for your loved one.

We’ve heard the little blue box is a can’t miss. For people like Dave who need more than a clue, that’s Tiffany and Co., located in Town Center.

Atlantic Avenue has an array of great little shops where you can find just the right gift; Pineapple Grove also has an array of shops and places to pamper your loved one with a massage, gift certificate or pedicure.

For something a little different, consider visiting Artist’s Alley (Third Avenue and Third Street) Delray’s hottest new neighborhood featuring an array of local artists exhibiting and selling their creations.

The Alley will be open for “Romance Saturday”. Tell them, we sent you.

Have a great Valentine’s Day.