There’s Something Happening Here….

 

I don’t mean to brag, but just like The Beach Boys sing: I get around.

Mind you, not as much as I used to—my tank is half full these days, but I compensate by reading, surfing the web and listening to podcasts. We live in a wonderful world of content that resides at our fingertips.

If I see a movie or read a book I like, chances are I can find a podcast featuring the writer or a website that includes links to their work so I can go deeper.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about Florida real estate, especially South Florida real estate and what’s happening to our market.

If you’ve lived in Florida long enough, you’ve seen the booms and you’ve seen the busts. You’ve marveled at the prices paid for homes and buildings only to see those jaw dropping deals look like bargains a few years later. But this time it feels different. This time it feels like the very nature of our region is changing.

As I write this, our market is red hot. We are seeing prices that defy description. Land in downtown Delray is trading at $6 million an acre. Homes that a few years ago were selling in the high $200s are selling for four times that price today.

It all seems…well… it all seems  unreal.

And yet….

A whole lot of value has been built in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Yes, there’s traffic.

Yes, there are bad drivers and rude people.

Yes, we tend to complain about those things and a host of other maladies real or imagined.

But…

By just about any measure, this is a great place to live.

As a result, people are willing to pay a premium to live here.

After all, we check a lot of boxes.

Good weather + quality of life+ no income taxes = a robust real estate market.

Add in years of low interest rates, easy credit, and lots of money sloshing into the system and you get inflated values.

Yes, real estate is rising just about everywhere, but something different is happening here.

So, what do I mean?

Ok, a few random thoughts based on “getting around” talking to real estate people, reading articles etc.

  • Big finance is all in on South Florida. West Palm Beach is reeling in the firms, Goldman Sachs etc. So is Boca. And Palm Beach Gardens. Wall Street, anxious to have a post -Covid hedge against being locked down in NYC, sees our area with all its wealth and proximity to Palm Beach as a very attractive option compared to NY, New Jersey and Connecticut.
  • West Palm Beach, under the able leadership of Mayor Keith James, is having a “moment.” I’ve always felt West Palm had potential beyond the ups and downs of Clematis Street or the various iterations of Rosemary Square or whatever it’s called this week. For a while, I thought the condos were going to crowd out the ability to land businesses, but there seems to be room left over for economic development and job creation. No less an authority than the Wall Street Journal is singing the praises of West Palm, noting that it has been “discovered” by many Palm Beach types who once never thought of crossing the bridge to own real estate or open businesses.
    One of the more exciting developments is the vision taking shape at Palm Beach Atlantic University. I had an opportunity to look at a scale model of the campus vision in the beautiful board room of the university. The plans include a major investment in health care on campus, a lifelong learning residential component and a center that will train future leaders while celebrating free enterprise. If it comes to fruition, it will be a big leap for downtown West Palm Beach.
  • The University of Florida is also flexing its muscles in Palm Beach County with plans to partner with some of the life science institutes that have sprouted here. I’m a little wary of how this encroachment affects FAU, but the UF brand and political muscle can’t help but make a difference in our region.
  • Speaking of FAU, I’ve had recent meetings with board members, President Kelly and professors. FAU’s ambitions are impressive. The best is yet to come at FAU. Keep a close eye on their medical school–what they are building there is beyond exciting it’s potentially transformational.
  • Lynn University (Disclosure: I serve on the board of Trustees) also has a grand vision that I am immensely proud of. Covid was a wild ride for educational institutions, and I’m endlessly impressed by the team at Lynn which consistently pivots to ride the waves of change. That’s good news for Boca and the surrounding area because Lynn radiates a whole lot of positives for our community.
  • We are also seeing health care take a major leap. The Baptist network—which runs Bethesda and Boca Community—has taken medicine to a new level. I also remain a strong booster of Delray Medical (Disclosure: I spent seven years on the board) and its sister hospitals owned by Tenet.

Health care has become a major economic driver and is essential in a world impacted by pandemic (s). In order for an area to maintain and grow its value, a good health care system is not an option, it’s table stakes.

  • There’s a lot of money moving into Boca/Delray. Take a drive through Lake Ida or Tropic Isle or La Hacienda (off of North Federal) and you almost can’t believe your eyes. So, here’s what’s happening—no judgment just observation. Older homes are being purchased for big money only to be leveled and replaced by even more expensive homes. In many cases, the new residents are replacing people who have lived here for decades and have decided to cash out and either move out of the area and or downsize. The new residents may only live here a few months a year. They are here to have fun at the beach and on Atlantic Avenue. They may never get involved in the community and they may never vote here. They are here for the amenities (again no judgment, we plan to do this in Maine in years to come so I get it.) Regardless, this changes the flavor of neighborhoods and the community. If I were still a policymaker, I would be keeping a close eye on this dynamic.
  • The wealthy and seasonal demographic moving to our community is also impacting schools. Enrollment in Delray Beach public schools is plummeting. This is a sea change from an earlier era when the School District had to add portables to keep up.
  • All these dynamics puts the squeeze on middle class families and those striving to get to the middle class. I often wonder where people who serve as essential workers will live. It is a huge challenge to create attainable housing when land and construction costs are soaring. Usually, the best way to lower costs is to add supply to meet demand. But long and uncertain entitlement processes and an aversion to density makes it hard to add supply—especially in areas near employment centers. Regardless, it will take a huge effort to provide the housing we need to accommodate those currently frozen out of the market. It isn’t fair to put it all on the development community who simply can’t make the numbers work without significant help from government.

Every study I’ve read lately is calling on government to step up with financing tools to bridge the gap but that will require political will, a willingness to take some risks to ensure housing opportunities and some policy innovation that frankly, to date. we haven’t had.

There’s more but that’s enough to chew on for now.

It will take a village to re-imagine our future. It’s coming whether we prepare for it or not, but it will be better if we prep.

Let’s just say that Florida seems to be the new “golden state”—as the bloom fades on “California Dreaming” “Here comes the Sun(shine)” state.

 

 

 

Quality Time Remaining….

 

Thomas Friedman has an interesting business card.

I have only just a minute,

 

Only sixty seconds in it.

 

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.

 

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.

 

But it’s up to me

 

to use it.

 

I must suffer if I lose it.

 

Give account if I abuse it.

 

Just a tiny little minute,

 

but eternity is in it. — Benjamin Mays.

 

I woke up early last Thursday and the name Benjamin Mays was in my head.

Sometimes, things like that happen to me.  It’s weird.

I’ll get an idea or wake up with a song on my mind and sometimes I’ll see a face or think of a name.

I know who Benjamin Mays is…he was the minister who gave the eulogy at MLK’s funeral. But I don’t know why I woke up thinking about him. I had to stop and think about it.

The poem above has two names “God’s Minute” and “Just a Minute.” In a few lines, Rev. Mays speaks to how fleeting life is and how we are called to make the most of the small blip of time we’re given. It makes you think and it forces you to ponder priorities.

The day before, my dad and I went to Florida Atlantic University to hear a lecture from three time Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Thomas Friedman. It was an interesting time to hear Friedman considering the state of our world and the war in Ukraine. Friedman has had a bird’s eye of view of world affairs for close to 30 years. He has known just about every player there is to know, and he has seen how our world is “flat” and therefore how trends knit together.

He spends his time thinking and writing about the big stuff.

Many of us, get lost in the small stuff. We miss the forest because we are deep in the weeds.

Friedman covered a lot of ground in his 90 minutes. He’s a remarkable thinker and deeply experienced.

But I came away with two thoughts from the Friedman experience.

First, the leaders who will make a difference in our world are those who tell the truth and build trust.

Think about that for a moment.

How many of our leaders tell us the truth and how many give us their spin or their “alternative facts?”

How many of our leaders build trust so that we can believe in our institutions and know that our values are respected and protected?

Second, the two most powerful forces in politics today are humiliation and dignity.

We all fear humiliation and we all want dignity.

Friedman believes so much in the power of those words and emotions that he often refers to himself as The New York Times’ “Humiliation and Dignity Columnist.” The title is on his business card.

Says Friedman:

“Humiliation, in my view, is the most underestimated force in politics and international relations. The poverty of dignity explains so much more behavior than the poverty of money. People will absorb hardship, hunger and pain. They will be grateful for jobs, cars and benefits. But if you make people feel humiliated, they will respond with a ferocity unlike any other emotion, or just refuse to lift a finger for you.

By contrast, if you show people respect, if you affirm their dignity, it is amazing what they will let you say to them or ask of them. Sometimes it just takes listening to them, but deep listening — not just waiting for them to stop talking. Because listening is the ultimate sign of respect. What you say when you listen speaks more than any words.”

Think about this concept in terms of Vladimir Putin, who feels deep humiliation over the collapse of the Soviet Union. And think about this concept the next time your City Commission or Council makes a mean-spirited decision and refuses to talk about it.  Was that decision driven by some desire to heal humiliation (or inflict it) and will that decision humiliate others?

In Friedman’s view, politics is the quest for dignity.

If we read the “Just A Minute” poem and absorb its profound and moving message, we are called to achieve with the little time we are given.

We are challenged to lift up, not humiliate. We are tasked with building trust and dignity.

People who divide and polarize, who invade, destroy, and seek to humiliate others are not leaders. They are the problem. And we must do our best to make sure they never get the levers of power because they will abuse not serve.

Remembering a dear friend

Bob Levinson

Last week, we sent our condolences to the family of John Gallo, a wonderful man and big contributor to Lynn University.

This week, we remember and send condolences to the family of Robert Levinson, one of Mr. Gallo’s best friends. The two—who called themselves the young and the restless—worked side by side for decades at Lynn.

Bob Levinson passed within days of his friend. He was a month shy of his 97th birthday.

Bob was a friend of mine and a wonderful man. I served on the Delray City Commission with his son Jon and Bob and I had grown close over the years.

For a few years, we shared office space and I enjoyed seeing and chatting with Bob about world affairs.

He had a curious mind, worked until he was 90, wrote several books on business and management and never stopped learning. He was an inspiring man who enjoyed success in a wide variety of businesses ranging from hotels to manufacturing.

Bob cared deeply about the world and his community. He was philanthropic, generous, smart, experienced and well read.

I will miss his smile, our conversations, his take on the world and most of all his example.

What a special man.

He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

Odds and Ends

Congratulations to the Delray Beach Public Library for a very successful (and fun) “Laughs With the Library” event at the spectacular Opal Grand last week.

Comedian Pat McGann headlined the show which was hosted by our very own Frank McKinney.

 

Congratulations also to the newly seated Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Chair David Schmidt passed the gavel to Vivian DeMille who gave a terrific speech on the importance of heart and soul in leadership.

Lord knows we can use more of both here and throughout the world.

Finally, #prayersforukraine

 

Adventures In Writing…

It has been said that writing is a lonely endeavor. But I find it to be a joyous exercise.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

– Anaïs Nin

 

I have always loved to write.

I find it relaxing and cathartic.

Whenever I have a strong emotion—stress, anger, happiness, excitement, sadness—my first inclination is always to find a corner and write.

I’ve had fallow periods where the words didn’t come easy, but I can honestly say I’ve never been blocked. The words just flow. Sometimes the prose is terrible, but the well never runs dry and with patience I can usually get something to sound reasonably passable.

I write to order my thoughts, to quiet a busy mind and because I like the interaction I get.

Some of you comment on the blog itself, some of you text or email me and some of you comment on social media. I enjoy it all. Thank you and please keep it coming.

A few years back, I wrote a book about my experiences in Delray entitled “Adventures in Local Politics.”

The book was my attempt to capture my story of coming to Delray Beach and working as a local reporter before deciding to run for office in 2000. I wanted to get it all down before the years dimmed my memories. I wanted to leave something for my children to read and I wanted the book to be a resource for other people who may want to run for local office.

I was proud of the book and although I had no expectations and only limited time to spend on promotion, the book found a niche. Students in an urban planning class at FAU used to buy it, people I met in business would sometimes order it on Amazon and a few candidates from near and far managed to find it.

I appreciated their support.

The publishing company I used went belly up during Covid and I found out that other than buying used copies online, the book would be out of print. Since I still get the stray request for a book, I didn’t want that.

So, after a few inquiries I signed a deal with a California publisher. I’m going to do three books: we just finished an updated version of “Adventures” which includes some stuff on Covid, then I’m going to flesh out a book I’ve already written about my relationship with a well-known local entrepreneur and finally I’m going to team up with some colleagues on a book called “Letters to a Candidate” which is underway.

Here’s the introduction.

Please let me know your thoughts. And thanks for reading this blog, which is a labor of love that allows me to clear the cobwebs every Monday morning.

 

Letter to a candidate…

Once upon a time, we used to admire just about every candidate who threw his or her hat in the ring.

Running for office is not easy and we respect that.

Campaigning is grueling, nasty, and personal. There are easier ways to serve your community. So, we had some reverence for those who stepped up and put

themselves out there.

Not anymore.

We’ve seen too many bad candidates.

We’ve suffered too many fools, egomaniacs, buffoons, narcissists and empty suits.

We’ve seen the damage they’ve done.

We’ve also seen the opportunities they’ve squandered and frankly we’re tired. Bad politicians make us cranky.

We’ve all seen the memes and the funny Gif’s poking fun at the clown car of elected officials who embarrass themselves (and us) with their bad behavior,

failure to get anything done and inability to serve the people they promise to help. Yes, we’ve laughed and yes, we’ve shared a few jokes ourselves.

But when you think about it,  poor leadership isn’t funny, it’s tragic.

In the case of war or pandemic, poor leadership gets people killed.

On a local level, you may not be making life or death decisions every day, but if you tolerate a bad Police Department or fail to invest in Fire Rescue services you can cause people to die.

Yes, serving as an elected official is a big responsibility. So, while we are glad you are thinking about taking the plunge, we think you ought to know a few things.

That’s why we’ve written these letters to you.

Each letter contains a lesson that we’ve learned through practice as former elected officials and through observation as involved and engaged citizens who have been keeping an eye on all levels of government for decades.

We’ve seen the great ones. The special people who move mountains and leave a positive legacy for others to build upon—or destroy.

We’ve seen the ones who could have been great but fell short.

And we’ve seen the ones who have made a mess of things.

What you are about to read is a distillation of our combined knowledge and what we’ve learned from others who have served.

Over our many decades inside and outside the arena, we have known council members, mayors, county commissioners, state legislators, members of Congress, governors, cabinet officers, senators and we’ve even seen a president or two up close. We’ve also met a slew of presidential candidates during their trips to voter rich South Florida.

As former elected officials who remained involved in the community we are also often called upon by aspirants and office holders who want advice, endorsements and money—not necessarily in that order.

This is the book we’ll hand to them now that it’s written.

We wish that this book existed back 20 years ago when we ran for local office in Delray Beach, Florida. It might have saved us some pain and heartache over the years.

We hope you will learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. Along the way, we did get a few things right as well. We’ll share a few case studies on themes that you are likely to encounter as you begin your journey.

Enjoy and thanks for being interested in serving.

 

Note to readers:

We’d like to send our condolences to the Gallo family upon the passing of John Gallo Jr. February 12.

Mr. Gallo was a wonderful man, with a great sense of humor. He will be deeply missed by his many friends and admirers.

I got to know John through Lynn University where he worked over 30 years after a successful career in retail management. Mr. Gallo was the GM of the Jordan Marsh store in Boca Raton before joining the staff at Lynn.

He was active at St. Jude Catholic Church and at the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. He was also a proud member of the Boca Raton Sunrise Rotary Club.

A line from his obituary grabbed me: “We will miss our father greatly; he defined what it meant to be a good husband, father, and friend.”

You can’t do better than that.

Rest in Peace my friend.

 

Things We Loved in April

A Delray institution celebrates a landmark birthday.

Things we Loved in April

A Milagro Milestone & A Proper Affair
April was a big month for Delray’s Milagro Center.
The non-profit celebrated its “Gala of Light” at the Loft at Congress and also marked the opening of its new Middle School program at the Virginia and Harvey Kimmel Milagro Junior Teen Center.
The opening means that the Milagro has three distinct centers serving the needs of our children from Kindergarten through high school.
The Kimmel’s have been a true blessing to Delray supporting many key nonprofits including the Delray Beach Public Library and Old School Square.

Speaking of great non profits, the Achievement Center for Children & Families is marking it’s 50th anniversary this year.
It’s Proper Affair fundraiser honored two of our favorite leaders: Karen Granger of 4 Kids and leadership consultant Suzanne Spencer who did stellar work with Delray’s Drug Task Force before departing to work with clients, our schools and the chamber’s leadership program.
Both are deserving honorees and fabulous leaders.

Recommended
We tried the Vino Wine Bar for the first time this month. This charming Boca Raton restaurant offers great Italian food in an intimate setting. Also a highlight: a wonderful and vast wine list and awesome food.

Mr. Plum Was A Local Legend
On a sad note, Delray lost a wonderful friend with the recent passing of Bill Plum at age 90.
It’s hard to overstate Bill’s contributions to the community.
Owner of Plum’s Pharmacy, founder and manager of the Delray Beach Club, President of Carney Bank, owner of Plum Realty, developer of the Plum Building and a prodigious fundraiser for Bethesda Hospital.
He also co-founded the Drug Abuse Foundation and was active in the Delray St. Patrick’s Day Parade and The Haven. And the list goes on.
He was a wonderful man. Who will be fondly remembered by all who were fortunate to cross his path.

A Theatrical Gem

We have become big fans of FAU’s Theatre Lab, a small intimate space where new plays come to life.
Under the direction of the talented Matt Stabile, local audiences get treated to cutting edge theater works.
We’ve  had a chance to see two plays by Jennifer Lane, an up and coming playwright who is bound for big things.
In April, we saw Lane’s  “Harlowe” an at times funny but mostly intense family drama.
It was a powerful performance and we highly recommend that you check out this wonderful venue if you enjoy thought provoking production. Another great treasure in our backyard.

Big Time
Nice to see State Attorney Dave Aronberg on Morning Joe.
Mr. Aronberg was opining on the college admissions scandal and particularly the questionable decisions by actress Lori Loughlin who at the time had not taken a deal by pleading guilty. (Disclosure: I went to high school with Ms. Loughlin).
Aronberg has gotten a lot of national press lately as a result of the situation involving Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the Jupiter Day Spa.

Madison’s
Madison’s restaurant off of Glades Road is a terrific place. Love the bar, a great happy hour menu, amazing food and the wait staff is always great. Highly recommend.

Celebrating a Landmark
Delray’s Fifth Avenue Grill is celebrating its 30th anniversary in May.
That’s a lot of years in a tough business and a competitive landscape.
We recently dropped by for lunch and loved the new menu. Lots of great choices and always a bunch of specials. Now under new management with a new chef too.
(Disclosure: my company has an ownership stake).

The Mighty Max Delivers
The Max Weinberg’s Jukebox show at the Crest Theatre was in a word: amazing.
Two hours of unadulterated fun and great music from a rock and roll hall of famer and his terrific band.
Max, a proud Delray resident, talked up how much he loved playing the Crest and also gave some shout outs to local favorites Da Da and Doc’s.
If you have a chance to see the Jukebox don’t miss it. It’s a great night of music courtesy of an E Street legend.
Also kudos to promoter Rusty Young and his Music Works for bringing all sorts of great acts to the Crest—John Sebastian, Karla Bonoff, Stephen Bishop etc.

Healthy Options
We discovered the Bee Hive restaurant in Boca last month. Healthy food, reasonably priced and very generous portions. A welcome addition to the fast casual scene.

Motivation at La Cigale
We had a chance to have dinner at La Cigale with performance coach and best selling author Dr. Kevin Elko.
Dr. Elko has worked with 7 national college football champions and several NFL teams including the Cowboys, Eagles, Steelers and Packers. He’s about winning in business, sports and life by connecting, eliminating distractions and being present.
It’s a good message. Check out his website. https://www.drelko.com/

Pompano Rising
Sometimes we go a little afield to  try new things. So we traveled to Pompano to experience Mora Grill, a Lebanese restaurant.
It was outstanding. Lively (lots of belly dancing), really good food and just plain fun. Also very reasonably priced.
We then wandered down the recently improved beach promenade and ended up at the magnificent Beachhouse which is a really vibrant hot spot directly on the ocean. Keep an eye on Pompano.

Attracting VC attention
Congratulations to our friends at Bidtellect for ranking 13th on the South Florida Business Journal’s list of top 25 venture capital deals for the past four quarters ending March 31.
The Delray based paid content distribution platform raised $8.68 million.
Keep an eye on this company. It’s going to be big.
Boca’s Greenlane, a vape company, landed in  third place landing a whopping $48.2 million.
Christine’s is Magnificent
Kudos to Lynn University’s newest culinary gem: Christine’s.
Located on the second floor of the beautiful University Center, Christine’s offers great food with a beautiful view of the campus. A wonderful addition.

Devour
We visited Devour Brewery in Boynton Beach and sampled several excellent beers. My favorite: the Pineapple Hefe.
Definitely worth your time to visit and sample.

The Power of Vulnerability
If your not willing to build a vulnerable culture you can’t lead or innovate.
That’s was one of many messages/gems in the new Brene’ Brown Netflix special. “Call to Courage” is a great way to spend 75 minutes. So step away from the endless division on cable TV “news” and learn from a thought leader who teaches us about courage and vulnerability and how you can’t have one without the other.

Taking a Free Ride
Beatles on the Beach…Edgar Winter in Delray. How cool is that? Nuff said.

Long Awaited
We finally visited Louie Bossi in Boca. It was very good.
Wonderful food, excellent service and Nonna’s cheesecake is to die for.

Thanks & Happy Retirement

Congratulations and a heartfelt thanks to Phil Dorfman who retired after 30 years with the Delray Police Department.
I had a chance to ride with Phil several times over the years. We saw some things..Delray has come along way thanks in large part to the efforts of officers like Phil. We wish him well in his retirement.

Lynn: Making An Impact

Jerry Hildebrand, director of Lynn’s Social Impact Lab, is a legend in the field.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been a longtime fan of Lynn University and its visionary President Dr. Kevin Ross.

Last week, reminded me why.

Not a day goes by that we don’t see an article questioning the future of higher education. Colleges and universities are being disrupted, their business models challenged and now even admissions processes are being questioned in the wake of a recent national scandal.

But at Lynn University, we are witnessing a school that is pivoting with the times, riding the wave of change adeptly and becoming more relevant with every passing year.

Last week, I had the privilege of moderating a session at Lynn University’s first ever “Business for Good” conference hosted by Lynn’s new Social Impact Lab. I’m honored to be on the founding board of the lab which is run by a legend in the field: Jerry Hildebrand.

The conference brought together social entrepreneurs, business leaders, non-profit executives, students and investors anxious to learn how they can make a positive difference in the world.

As one of the keynote speakers Ron Cordes of the Cordes Foundation noted: it’s possible to invest capital and make a difference while making a profit too.

That’s a simple concept but a game changing shift in mindset.

I moderated a panel featuring two women who are reshaping the field of impact investing.

Kristin Fafard of Community Capital Management is the chief investment officer for a $2 billion plus fund that invests in affordable housing, clean water and other projects that provide both a return on capital and social impact. In fact, investors in her funds receive two reports—one chronicling financial performance and the other detailing the difference the fund’s capital is making in the community.

Community Capital is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale but has offices in the south and northeast. Since its inception 20 years ago, the firm has invested over $9 billion in impact initiatives nationwide.

From creating affordable housing to restoring the Everglades, Community Capital Management is in the vanguard of impact investing, a growing field.

Joining Kristin on the panel was a talented social entrepreneur named Lauren Harper, the founding director of Social Ventures Partners Miami, which is part of a philanthropic network with more than 39 affiliates in 9 countries and over 3,400 partners making SVP the largest network of engaged donors in the world.

We had a great conversation on how impact investing works and how communities and organizations can tie into the movement.

It was part of a day that brought a who’s who of players in the field to Boca Raton.

Here’s just a few of the stars who spent time at Lynn last week: the aforementioned Ron Cordes of the Cordes Foundation who chairs Lynn’s Social Impact Lab, Paul Rice, founder and CEO of Fair Trade USA, Eric Glustrom, CEO and Founder of the innovative Watson Institute (which now has an office on the Lynn campus), Eric Stephenson of Align Impact, Steve Fox of Impact Global Education, Felice Gorordo, CEO of Emerge Americas and a slew of other superstars in the impact investing and entrepreneurial worlds.

That all of these players—worldwide influencers—were gathered at Lynn is extremely significant and very exciting.

Lynn sees itself as a convener—which is a great role for a university to play—leading conversations around important topics and emerging opportunities.

Lynn’s new Social Impact Lab, includes event space and co-working opportunities giving both students and the community a place to gather, interact, collaborate and create. I had a chance to meet some really interesting students last week some of whom have ideas for social enterprises or businesses that have as part of their DNA plans to give back.

One student, Raymond Francois, is an aspiring food entrepreneur who is a Coast Guard veteran. As part of Lynn’s Social Impact Lab, Mr. Francois was able to travel to Macedonia where he worked with locals on community projects. The experience was life changing. As a result, his post grad plans include a business that would bring healthy food to underserved local neighborhoods. That’s very cool.

By investing in the next generation of game changers and opening a world of possibilities to their students, Lynn University guarantees against disruption and positions itself for years of success.

That this exciting world is happening on Military Trail ought to make all us very proud and excited about the future.

 

 

 

Things We Loved In March

Legends train in Delray…former Delray Open Champ and Delray resident Kevin Anderson and Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova.

 

Things we loved in March
We schlepped all the way to the Miramar Cultural Center to catch a lecture by two-time White House photographer Pete Souza and he was worth the trip.
Mr. Souza served as President Reagan’s photographer and then did an 8 year stint in the Obama White House.
His photography is magnificent. Of course there are the iconic shots—the President and his national security team watching Seal Team Six take out Osama Bin Laden, a five year old African American boy touching the President’s head and marveling that his hair is the same etc. etc.
But it was the behind the scenes shots of family, staff and life as POTUS that truly captivated.
Souza has released a few books and has a large following on Instagram if you want to check out his work.
The Miramar Cultural Center is pretty special too.

In Praise of LF
Leadership Florida is an organization that is close to my heart.
I’m a graduate of Class XXIV and I’ve tried to stay involved by attending annual meetings and serving on a few committees. The organization is dedicated to training, convening and educating leaders in politics, academia, business and non-profits. I think the best legacy of the organization is that it helps instill a love of Florida into those who participate. We may love our cities, we may love our regions but Leadership Florida helps us appreciate the wonders of our state.
For decades, Wendy Walker was the organization’s leader and guiding light. She retired about two years ago and has remained in touch with the organization.
Last month, Diane and I and fellow LF grad Jon Levinson had a chance to meet Wendy and her family for lunch at the marvelous River House in Palm Beach Gardens.
It was a great afternoon of catching up, talking about the state of our state and learning where other graduates have landed.
If you value leadership, I urge you to check out the organization and apply for one it’s programs. It will change your life.

Discover the Theatre Lab

We attended a play at the FAU Theatre Lab for the first time in March.
“To Fall In Love” by Jennifer Lane (remember that name she’s a wonderful talent) was given a reading by Theatre Lab Artistic Director Matt Stabile and the talented local actress Niki Fridh.
The play was directed by Louis Tyrell, a name that should be familiar to local theater goers.
The experience was electric.
And we highly recommend that you visit this small little gem of a theater on the FAU campus.
In fact, the Lab will present another  Jennifer Lane play “Harlowe” through April 14. Call 561-297-6124 or visit https://nam03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=www.fauevents.com&data=02%7C01%7C%7C0e30c440221440d3afe308d6b2e205d8%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636893081156480236&sdata=m6rM1LHn3wc8rSXhEO0F5f6YmroVDN1%2BFB9mZwAHaDU%3D&reserved=0 for more information.
After the play, Tyrell and the two person cast answered questions about the performance. It was an intimate and engaging experience and we were amazed at how two talented actors with no props other than a music stand could turn a reading into a transformative and emotional experience.
The Theatre Lab is a gem.

Good Books
We have a few books to recommend this month.
“Blitzscaling” by Linked In founder Reid Hoffman is a good read and helpful if you want to build a company that will conquer the world or at least its market.
Really enjoyed “Return on Courage” by Ryan Berman which talks about the benefits of being courageous in business and in life. Dare to try, dare to be different and take some chances. Simple advice but oh so hard in entrenched organizations.  But those people and organizations that do find the courage reap outsized rewards and change the world.

Celsius + Creative Mornings
Close readers of this space know I’m a huge fan of Creative Mornings Palm Beach.
And knowing their caffeinated audience I thought our beverage company Celsius would be a good fit.
So I replaced my personal sponsorship of the group with a Celsius sponsorship and I’m pleased to report that Creative Mornings and Celsius have hit it off! So check out an upcoming Creative Morning and make sure you sample Celsius, a local company that’s doing some great things.

The Gazebo rocks & Senor Burrito is also great

Chicken Chablis, French bread and two good friends dining at the bar/counter at Boca’s sublime Kathy’s Gazebo. My friend had liver…he said it was good. I’ll have to take his word for it.

There are few things in life better than sitting at the bar at Senor Burrito with a margarita, chips and a plate of carne asada. Trust us on this. Seriously.

Welcome iPic Delray

The red carpet gala at the new iPic Delray was one of the best parties ever. Truly.
This project is another level. The art work, the design, the comfort of the pods, the finishes.
CEO Hamid Hashemi and his team deserve kudos for their  perseverance in the wake of toxic opposition. iPic’s  execution and vision is something to see.  The project is a wow.

New Digs for Stuart & Shelby

Congratulations to Chuck Halberg and the team at Stuart and Shelby on the grand opening celebration  of their new headquarters on 4th Avenue in Delray.
The office looks great and a big crowd turned out for a genuine good guy who does so much for the community.
We wish them many more years of continued success.

Days of Wine & Seafood

It was great to see the Delray Wine and Seafood Festival return to Old School Square.
Great seminars, awesome food and the “wine down” garden was brilliant.

 A terrific job by producers Festival Management Group. Nancy, Bern, John and Lindi are something special. If you missed it this year, make sure you mark your calendars for next year. And don’t miss the pairing seminars. We attended a Cabernet seminar featuring Napa Valley wines such as Frog’s Leap, Spring Valley and Rutherford. Paired with great food courtesy of Caffe Luna Rosa’s terrific chef Ernie DeBlasi . It was a memorable experience. P.S. Caffe Luna Rosa has magnificent crab cakes and lobster rolls.

Only in Delray

Sharp eyed tennis fans got a major treat in March when they stumbled on Delray’s Kevin Anderson training with legend Martina Navratilova at the Delray Tennis Center.
The former Delray Open champ hails from South Africa but fell in love with Delray after playing here. He soon bought a home and even adopted a rescue dog at the CRA Green Market. Pretty cool.
Martina was in town and the two had a chance hit a few balls and chat about the tennis life.

Speaking of tennis, Delray sensation Coco Gauff earned a wild card to play in the prestigious Miami Open. Quite a coup for the 15 year old junior champ as the Miami Open is considered one of the world’s top tournaments—a step below a Grand Slam. Coco won her first WTA tour match beating fellow wildcard Catherine McNally 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. On a related note, she was also featured in Forbes magazine in March.

A New Venu
We checked out West Boynton’s Venu last month, a live music venue, restaurant and bar in The Canyon Center.
The food was delicious, the happy hour menu was inexpensive and tasty and the acts range from tribute bands to national acts such as Los Lobos and the Marshall Tucker Band. Rascals legend Felix Cavaliere played there in March. Really interesting place. We were there the same night they had a sell out for a Queen tribute band.

Burgers and Wine and Cars

Highly recommend Zimburger, a burger and wine bar in the Town Center Mall.
The veggie burger is outstanding and so are the truffle fries, which may cancel out the veggie burger.

Imagine our surprise when we stumbled into an appearance by rock hall of famer and Cars frontman Ric Ocasek at the mall’s Wentworth Gallery.
It turns out Mr. Ocasek is also a fine artist and the gallery was featuring his paintings.
I’d say seeing his art work was “just what I needed” but that would be too obvious.

Making Deals and Bringing Jobs to Town
I had a chance to speak to the South Florida Office Brokers Association at their monthly meeting hosted at Delray Central,  a recently renovated office building owned by Grover Corlew, a local real estate firm.
For me, it was a chance to talk about the redevelopment of the Office Depot headquarters across the street and to meet the pro’s who bring the tenants to projects.
It was an impressive group.
I was also very impressed with the renovations done to the newly branded Delray Central office building which looks great.
It’s really good to see investment happening along the Congress Avenue corridor.

A Fond Farewell to a Great Chief

Congratulations to Police Chief Jeff Goldman on his retirement and his new gig in corporate security.
Chief Goldman and I go way way back. He was a young officer on Delray’s tactical team working street level drugs and crime when I was young reporter in Delray back in the 80s, when parts of Delray resembled an open air drug market.
I was able to observe the Police Department’s stellar work on frequent ride alongs at all hours of the night. I got to know Jeff and we’ve been friends ever since.
It was gratifying to see him rise through the ranks and make a difference along the way.
Being chief is a very hard job but Jeff kept his head about him through the opioid crisis, weird politics, spasms of violence in the community and changing players at City Hall, including a slew of city managers.
I will miss him and wish him well in his next chapter.

Inspired Choices
Congratulations to Amanda Perna and Jamael Stewart on been named the new hosts of Delray Morning Live. The duo will replace the show’s founders Ryan Boylston and Kate Volman who have become Wednesday morning staples on Facebook with their live stream featuring a host of local luminaries.
It isn’t easy to do a weekly live show but Ryan and Kate have done an amazing job.
I had a chance to catch up with Kate after a recent show at Capital One Cafe and she’s doing great things in the leadership field as a new CEO of a consulting company. We all know Ryan is super busy as a city commissioner and entrepreneur.
Amanda is a talented entrepreneur herself and Jamael is a rising star as our assistant director of community improvement.
Good to see the Chamber of Commerce involved as the show enters a new era. Tune in Wednesday’s on Facebook.

Making an Impact
Kudos to Lynn University’s new Social Impact Lab on it’s fabulous “Business for Good” conference. Top notch speakers on topics including venture philanthropy, impact investing and fair trade attracted a large crowd. Terrific launch for the new lab which is amazing. (See a future blog for more info).

Long Table, Great Night
Savor the Avenue did it again.
A great night eating at large tables spanning Atlantic Avenue highlights Delray’s terrific restaurants.
We sat with new residents and visitors from London who marveled at our town.
Kudos to Delray Magazine, the DDA and all of the participating restaurants. We were at The Office’s table and it was great.

What a month. See you in April.

Catching Up On Ideas

Five years ago, we published a blog post outlining 25 ideas for Delray.

We stumbled upon the post this week and thought we’d take a look to see whether any of these ideas came to life.

25 Ideas …

1.Brand Delray Beach as a mecca for entrepreneurs—Progress: Delray has attracted a fair amount of interesting entrepreneurs including The Downtowner, Delivery Dudes, House of Perna and Rooster among others. There also several social entrepreneurial efforts including WiseTribe, Space of Mind, One Million Cups, Creative Mornings Palm Beach (not Delray based per se, but active in the city).

2.To accomplish the above, create a business incubator downtown and invite entrepreneurs to grow in Delray. Progress:  Not yet. There are a few co-working efforts—the Kitchn etc., but a true incubator has yet to be established. Perhaps, overlooking the Old School Square Park? Great opportunity.

3.Create a business accelerator in Delray so that once companies are incubated they have someplace to go for the extra needed help. Progress: Not yet.

4.Help existing businesses grow by offering classes and low or no-cost business advice at our own Old School Square. Progress: Not yet.

5.Speaking of Old School Square, offer executive education, certificate and graduate programs in the classrooms. Revenue for Old School Square and another tool for economic development. Progress: Not on the drawing board.

6.Program the Old School Square Park—add shade, music and a few tasteful vendors. Progress: Work has been done to forge a vision for the park, but not yet accomplished. Bond issue establishing the park was passed almost 13 years ago. Lots of discussion around what to fund.

7.At holiday time, create a holiday village at the Old School Square park and allow kiosks and “pop-up” stores to capture crowds heading to the 100 foot tree. Give local retailers a free or reduced stall and charge others for the month—use funds to offset holiday costs. Progress: A new tree, no pop-ups.

8.Creatively partner with the Elev 8 Sports Institute and bring “fantasy camps” to Delray. With the school’s extensive MLB contacts, tourists would come to Delray to play with their childhood heroes and enjoy the downtown after the game is over. Progress: Didn’t happen.

9.Install LED lighting in parking lots and parking garages. It’s green and it saves money. Progress: Several entrepreneurs interested in making it happen.

10.Create a leadership academy to train the next generation of local leaders. Teach the Delray success story. Progress: In 2016, Chamber ran a civics academy. It was well attended. But a follow-up has not yet occurred.

11.Create a local Business Development Corporation enabling local residents to buy “shares” in local businesses and invest in growing our own economy. Progress: Not on the radar.

12.Reinvigorate the Southwest Plan by borrowing a page from Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Empowerment Zone playbook. Seek foundation monies to move beyond infrastructure to developing Delray’s vast human capital. Progress: WARC working on a transformation plan, efforts to rebrand the area as The Set underway.

13.Arm the economic development director with a reasonable budget to market Delray. We have to get in the game and that takes marketing and… Progress: Nope.

14.Public Relations. Delray needs a publicity strategy outside the local papers to attract investment and build awareness of our assets and opportunities. After all, we are the jewel of Palm Beach County. Progress: Downtown Marketing Cooperative, Chamber and Downtown Development Authority do a great job.

15.Tie the new Arts Warehouse to a broader strategy to create an artists and artisans “village within a village” in the Third Avenue area. Progress: Five years later, we just attended the grand opening of the long-awaited warehouse. Better late than never, and it’s fabulous.

16.Help Delray’s Prep and Sports develop a national reputation for elite football training and make the 7 on 7 event one of the premier tournaments in the USA. Progress: Prep and Sports’ founder T.J. Jackson was hired to coach Atlantic High. He took them to the state finals this year.

17.Convene an economic development charrette to discuss our fiscal future and job creation—let the community decide the priorities and tie our spending to those priorities. Progress: Economic development will be a part of the comp plan. Yay!

18.Team up with our neighbors Boca Raton and Boynton wherever possible:  economic development, marketing to save money and leverage our strengths. Progress: An alliance has been discussed around government affairs on regional issues with area chambers.

19.Get serious about jumpstarting investment on Congress Avenue. The vision and zoning is in place, what’s needed is execution and beautification. Progress: Years after handing in a report, the Task Force plan has been largely shelved by the commission. Vice Mayor Chard has kept the flame burning with meetings among property owners and investors. Kaufman Lynn located to Congress, transforming a derelict property into a great new headquarters. Investor interest remains high on the corridor. The city could help by implementing the plan and amending the LDR’s as promised.

20.Add a Middle School of the Arts at Carver Middle School and tie it into all of our arts activities from Old School Square to the Creative City Collaborative to the new Plumosa School of the Arts. Progress: Hasn’t happened.

21.Bring a branch of a university downtown and one to Congress Avenue. Progress: Lynn University has partnered with the Delray chamber. Stay tuned.

22.Revisit the North Federal Highway Plan and come up with a new vision for the 21st Century. Progress: Hasn’t happened.

23.Host a competition and have our local techies develop some interesting local apps. Progress: Hasn’t happened. The city of Tallahassee and the Florida League of Cities has had success with this approach.

24.Develop a formal, aggressive and powerful Shop Local Campaign. Progress: Small Business Saturday has become a big deal in recent years.

25.Add entrepreneurship academies to Atlantic High and Village Academy. Progress: Hasn’t happened yet.

Lynn’s MBA in Delray: Only The Beginning

A most welcome addition

Last night was an important one for Delray Beach.

Quietly, before a few guests, the trajectory of our downtown might have changed forever.

That’s a big statement. I may be wrong, but let me try and back it up.

After months of negotiations, Lynn University will launch an MBA in Delray program focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing at the Delray Chamber. The one-year program will be offered at night and tailored to working professionals and entrepreneurs.

The move was announced a few weeks ago, but it felt real last night when a contingent of Lynn staff led by President Kevin Ross and Business School Dean Dr. RT Good told a small gathering of local leaders and entrepreneurs why they chose Delray and what the program will entail.

Folks, we have to make this work. Why?  Because if it does it changes the game and enhances the brand that has been fostered by a slew of Delray Beach visionaries and stakeholders since the mid-80s.

Dr. Ross and Chamber President Karen Granger see the MBA in Delray as an innovative model that chambers and universities can replicate across the country. It enables chambers to get needed revenue, enhance value for their members and grow local economies, while enabling universities to reach into communities and tailor programs to meet local needs and trends.

Dr. Good and the Lynn team have been hard at work designing a “different” kind of curriculum that promises deeper relationships with faculty, classmates and local businesses while focusing on leadership, hands-on projects and case studies.

For the chamber it enables a deeper dive into the world of entrepreneurship, a focus and passion for President Granger who has quietly but persistently nurtured relationships with a growing number of promising local entrepreneurs. Many were there for the Lynn celebration including Brian Niles of Rooster, Eric Bucher of Call Sprout and Project Runway’s Amanda Perna, who runs “House of Perna,” an emerging fashion design brand.

Delray and Boca’s emerging foodie economy was represented as well with catering by fabulous Farmer’s Table restaurant, which I think has enormous potential. (Here’s where I should plug my two food/beverage related brands Tabanero and Celsius, but that would be indulgent no? Wink)

All of this is to say, that this partnership may signal that Delray’s downtown and indeed its economy is expanding beyond food and beverage—and that’s a good thing. A diversified economy is a more resilient and sustainable model.

Many years ago, Delray made a conscious choice to lead with food, beverage, culture and festivals to jumpstart its moribund, dull and dangerous downtown corridor.

It was a smart move, brilliantly executed by many, many important contributors and risk taking entrepreneurs.

And it worked, remarkably well.

We have a vibrant, valuable, cool, and attractive and revenue generating downtown that looks and feels good.

Our restaurant “row” generates crowds, creates jobs and helped to change how people see Delray Beach.

Our cultural and intellectual amenities: Old School Square, the Delray Beach Library, Spady Museum, Sandoway House, Delray Historical Society, Arts Garage and historic districts make us a distinct destination which drives property values, tax base, quality of life and tourism which is another critically important industry.

Festivals have also played and continue to play a major role. Which is why it was incredibly disappointing to see the debate about their value so mishandled. It’s an opportunity missed because so many cities are building their economies and brands around festivals. It’s something that should be revisited and expanded beyond the myopic debate around cost and inconvenience. I’m not saying that cost and resident convenience isn’t critically important because it is, but most of those issues can be solved with creative planning and by examining the revenue side of the equation and the intrinsic value created by events.

The Delray Marriott, Residence Inn, Seagate Hotel, Hyatt, Fairfield, Crane’s Beach House, Wright by the Sea, Parliament Inn, the historic Colony Hotel, Sundy House and other properties are extremely valuable assets that drive our economy and brand. They don’t stay viable and valuable—if we don’t have a vibrant local economy with many parts working.

The Delray ATP and the many junior events as well as our golf courses and sports facilities are also important assets that can be grown, nurtured, promoted and leveraged to keep our economy sustainable and the Delray value proposition higher than most other cities—especially small cities. We compete for investment and jobs. And we’ve built a powerhouse of a charming little city.

Cities that work have many moving parts that have to work together in concert to create lasting value.

Delray—imperfect as it is, challenged as it is—has done that. Value has been created. Quality of life and place has been created. It is our job and our responsibility to keep it going and to create a city of opportunity for all.

Through my 30 years here, my community involvement and my professional life—I get to meet and work with many talented people who aspire.

Kids from Atlantic High School and Village Academy who want to come back to Delray and make a life here, City staff who went into public service to make a difference, startup founders whom I encourage, informally advise and ask for help myself on my business challenges, educators who care, non-profit leaders who perform miracles, established business owners who volunteer and invest here, retirees who mentor, artists who amaze and parents who want to see their children achieve the American Dream in a world that is increasingly complicated and fraught.

They want a Better Delray—they’ve wanted that for a long time and they’ve made and are making a difference.

So yes the Lynn MBA in Delray is very big news.

I know President Ross. He’s a friend. He’s a visionary. He and his talented team make things happen. So this is just a start.

But it’s an important beginning. A unique and innovative university is working with our Chamber of Commerce in our downtown—and the potential is enormous.

In his remarks last night Dr. Ross noted that he recently began talking to his teenage daughter about life after college (she’s still in high school). Does she want to come back to Florida? Of course, she does.

Where does she want to live?

Delray.

She’s not alone. So take pride. Something very special was built here and the best is yet to come.

Welcome to Delray, Lynn University.

We’re thrilled beyond words.

We’ve wanted you here for a very long time.

Many people have worked very hard to catch your attention and create a place you and your students will want to be.

 

 

Why Wait for Valentine’s Day?

ibelieveAssets.
When we think of Boca and Delray’s assets we might think of beaches, Atlantic Avenue, Old School Square, maybe the Boca Resort and universities.
Assets all.

Valuable– in some cases historic– and of course cherished and appreciated.
But people are also assets and we are certainly blessed in that regard as well.

I just think that sometimes we lose sight of the special people, because– let’s face it– the whiners, complainers, haters, bullies, nitwits and nasties can eat up a lot of our time and energy. That’s why it’s important to pause and remind ourselves that indeed there are good people in our lives and communities quietly doing yeoman’s work not because it’s a photo op, or they are getting rich or because they are self-serving but simply because they are good people who care. We’ve done this before on the blog with a group of people and we will do it again. Luckily, we have an endless list of people to love, cherish and appreciate. So if your name isn’t below, it’s not because we don’t appreciate and love you. We do. Just give us a little time to catch up.
Here’s a look at a few human assets that make our community sing.
Gary Eliopoulos–architect, dad, savior of historic homes, former city commissioner and the funniest man I know (and I know funny people). Gary and I grew up together in Delray. We were in the same Leadership Delray class way back when and I’m a proud member of his occasional happy hour group at The Sail Inn (a Yankee bar) where Gary, a Red Sox fan, holds court and keeps us laughing. And you can’t put a price on that. He’s also an amazing architect who adores Delray Beach and we love him back.
Bob Barcinski-Mr. B as he is affectionately known served as assistant city manager during a golden age of Delray retiring a few years back before an adoring crowd at the golf club. Bob was never comfortable with attention, deflected credit and was loyal to his boss, his employees and his community. He’s a happy grandpa these days who can still be found at the counter of the Green Owl. If you worked with Bob, you realized how great he was. He got it done. And done well. Without fail. Every single time. If you want to pick a guy to be in a foxhole with look no further than Mr. B.
Evelyn Dobson-director of the Community Land Trust and past Northwest Neighborhood leader, Evelyn is a passionate crusader for homeownership and neighborhood revitalization. She quietly gets it done. Take a drive through the neighborhoods where the Land Trust has built homes and you will see success and families transformed through the pride of homeownership. Evelyn is one my heroes.
Pame Williams–Pame works for the City of Delray and has also been active in the community for decades. Whether it’s volunteering at events or working to improve her neighborhood you can always count on Pame and she’ll always make you smile. She will also put you in line if you misbehave. I like that. Little known fact: she secretly likes Neil Diamond.
Gary Ferreri-a detective and union leader, Gary has a reputation for always going the extra mile. Whether it’s helping a neighborhood or speaking out on behalf of his fellow officers Det. Ferreri is a leader. He has a lot of fans in Delray.  He has unlimited potential because he’s smart and has a heart and feel for the community he protects and serves.
Linda Ripps -founder of Golden Retrievals, a Boca based rescue organization for my favorite breed. Linda has a heart of gold too. She’s rescued retrievers locally and from far flung places like Korea too.  Her work not only saves great dogs but it enriches families beyond measure. I’m reminded of her big heart every day when I’m greeted by 90 pounds of love and hair named Teddy.
Kevin Ross–the visionary president of Lynn University, Dr. Ross has never been afraid to shake up his curriculum and look outside for inspiration which he then brings back to Lynn so his students can benefit. I admire that ethos and it ensures that Lynn will disrupt not be disrupted.  I love working with Kevin. He inspires because he aspires: for his students, his faculty, his friends, his alumni and his community.
Mike Covelli–a talented land planner and designer, Mike always makes his projects stronger. One of the smartest people I know. Every time I speak to Mike I learn something I never knew before. He has insights and sees things in a very unique way. He makes every project he touches infinitely better and he’s a good guy too.
Tony Allerton–I’ve known Tony for close to 30 years and he’s always been a leader and a gentleman. The founder of The Crossroads, Tony’s leadership has helped people for decades and his organization serves almost 1,000 people a day. Think about that times 35 years. Tony’s passion for people in recovery who are trying to reclaim their lives knows no bounds. He has quietly made a profound impact on countless families.
Tim Snow-Tim is just one of the good guys. As head of the Boca-based George Snow Scholarship Fund (named after his father) Tim leads a 34 year old fund that has awarded more than $8 million in scholarships to deserving students in our community. He has changed so many lives through the gift of education.
It’s all about the people. We hope to spotlight many more in the future columns.

On Doc’s, Real Estate & The Importance of Libraries

Doc'sRandom thoughts on Disparate Subjects…

Real estate prices in Delray Beach and Boca Raton can be mind boggling.
We’ve all seen the headlines regarding Doc’s, the Sundy House, the Green Owl and Huber’s Drugs.
Big prices. Huge bets being made by deep pocketed people.
These are iconic properties and as such important.
Change is also important and inevitable but it’s also critical that a city hold onto to its history, it’s look and it’s feel.
While I cannot begrudge property owners for selling their land for big prices I think there are two concerns that cities can address–they’re not easy challenges and the solutions are imperfect but worth considering.

Those concerns are affordability and  design.
Maintaining affordability in a sizzling market is not easy–market forces are strong and difficult to buck. But there are some strategies cities can deploy to ensure that mom and pop merchants can remain viable.
On the residential front tools such as density bonuses can be used to ensure at least some affordability.
Delray has also done yeoman’s work by creating and supporting a very effective Community Land Trust in which a non-profit entity buys land, develops property and places the land in a trust to ensure affordability in perpetuity. Homeowners own the homes but the land remains in the trust and increases in values are capped.
One wonders whether a similar approach can be taken to commercial property–an expensive proposition no doubt but it might be something to explore for culturally important properties.
Other tools include historic designations which would not cap appreciation of values but would control what can happen to a property if it is bought and redeveloped. If properties are not already designated historic, property owners often balk at seeking the designation because it hinders development. This is not a phenomenon limited to developers, we’ve seen single family neighborhoods rebel when the historic word is used.
I always felt CRA’s could be used to strategically acquire properties so that the city can control their disposition.
While there are some constraints and limitations (including the Sunshine law which makes it hard for CRA’s to move on land discreetly) there’s no doubt that CRA’s can and have bought important properties enabling cities to shape the future look, feel and use of land and districts.
I think an opportunity was missed to purchase the warehouses in the Artist’s Alley neighborhood. If the CRA had grabbed that strategic real estate to go along with their wise purchase of the Arts Warehouse there’s no doubt we could have had a sustainable arts district–our version of Wynwood which could have been placed in a trust and managed by another entity.
Instead, the battle between community desires and market forces will persist and we all know the win loss record on that front isn’t good. Delray’s track record is actually better than most cities in this regard as a result of visioning efforts and CRA investments. When you own properties you can control their destiny. The City Commission would be wise to tighten their relationship with the CRA, get on the same page and work together on these types of initiatives.
The other tools available to cities worried about gentrification are to develop design guidelines to stop or mitigate generic architecture and to encourage the development of other shopping districts so that as areas heat up, independents have a place to go.
Delray’s brave decision to narrow Federal Highway has converted that stretch from a highway to a neighborhood street opening up commercial possibilities. South of the avenue and other nooks and crannies may also offer opportunities now that Atlantic Avenue and Pineapple Grove’s prices have soared. Of course, with prices exceeding $1 million on acre on US 1 it won’t be easy.

Libraries are cool
We had an opportunity to attend the 10th annual Laughs With the Library event at the Marriott featuring the terrific Bobby Collins.
If you haven’t seen Bobby perform, put it on your bucket list. He’s a comedian’s comedian.
A large crowd turned out to support our library. That was heartening to see.
Lots of rumors are swirling around the library including making it a city department. That would be a mistake.
The Delray Library has a rich history and it’s location is ideal to serve the community. It also happens to be a beautiful place.
Is there a place for a library in the 21st Century? Yes, as a community hub, intellectual center, lifelong learning facility and a place for children and families to develop and indulge a love of books and reading. That’ll never go out of style.

Real estate buzz at Lynn

A few weeks ago, Lynn University President Kevin Ross convened a round table to discuss the creation of a real estate program at Lynn.
I was privileged to attend the small gathering and encouraged to start spreading the word. So I will. Gladly.
I’m a huge Lynn fan and a big admirer of Dr. Ross who is entrepreneurial and innovative. He’s a leader. And I like leaders.
The idea is not fully hatched yet but there’s a resolve and a commitment to create a boot camp program to teach skills to those passionate about real estate.
Executives from GL Homes, Kayne Anderson, Avison Young are at the table and there is a huge need to train people in all aspects of the profession.
Since growth and development are always at the top of the list in Boca and Delray it’s important to train a new generation in skills ranging from design, transaction, land use, resiliency, environmental sustainability, urban planning and more.
There’s also a screaming need to elevate the dialogue around these issues. Here’s predicting that Lynn will lead the way.