By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read March 2020 — The Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was established by the City Commission in 1985 to guide the city in its redevelopment efforts. The purpose of the CRA is to revitalize the physical environment and the economy of the Community Redevelopment Area. The CRA’s activities are designed to solve the underlying problems of slum and blighted conditions through planning, redevelopment, historic preservation, economic development and affordable housing.
What is the key characteristic for a successful CRA?
Communication is a very important component for investment. We need to communicate what we have done and where we are going to attract the right investment. A focus for us on a city level is the Northwest-Southwest neighborhood, which is an Opportunity Zone. We have the land and are open to working with a third party to develop it. In this area, we want to have a continuation of Downtown from I-95 all the way to the beachfront. That is a shared goal between the Chamber of Commerce, the City Commissioners and the CRA. We provide resources to help small businesses grow, including funding, help with business plans, research, investment guidance and grant and federal funding applications.
How do you balance support for small businesses with trying to attract bigger companies to the area?
As a CRA, we have programs that are available for businesses that want to renovate or relocate into the area. We provide funding for up to a year to help businesses with their rent, which encourages people to come to our district. We have programs to renovate structures through investment funds. We also acquire property to turn around to developers through an RFP process such as 4th and 5th Delray and the Fairfield Inn, which is a land-lease with an option to purchase.
How are you avoiding the pitfalls that come with gentrification, such as affordable housing and connectivity?
Affordable housing is a big part of our mission. We have always worked with the community land trust, which the CRA and the city created to help with affordable housing issues. The city has a workforce housing ordinance that provides a density bonus for developers that provide housing for certain income levels. We have a 7-acre redevelopment project taking place in the Northwest-Southwest area, which is taking advantage of that density bonus. As a CRA, we are in the process of building 30 single-family homes in this neighborhood.
In the commercial segment, we are looking at building out two spaces. One is a property we purchased in 2018. At first, we allocated it to housing but we realized there was more of a need for office space and changed directions. The top floor will be a coworking space with some individual offices, hot desks and a shared desk area. The ground floor will be traditional office space and perhaps a restaurant. If we own this, we can control the rent, which will help companies grow, but at some point, this would be turned over to a management company. We are open to opportunities for partnerships in the meantime.
The other project is a vacant piece of land on Southwest 5th Avenue, which is a historic business district that thrived in the 1950s among the African American population. Our focus is to bring back activity into that corridor. We are in the design phase to build a two-story office space in the building and this could be an investment opportunity for a third party. The Arts Warehouse is in the Arts Alley area, and we renovated this into an arts incubator, so we have about 15 artists renting small spaces at a rate of $2.50 per square foot. There is also a gallery in this space where people can apply to display their work. We are also putting about $2 million into the ground infrastructure in the Arts Alley district.
How are you attracting young entrepreneurs, especially in the tech sector, to Delray Beach?
The kind of investments we are making on Northwest 5th Avenue demonstrates that. One is a coworking space and we also are renovating a more modern-looking building. If they come to us, we direct them to the right avenues to encourage their ideas. But ultimately, after the business plan, they need a place to go, and that’s where the CRA comes in. The 7-acre project requires that at least three business spaces are used for locals, so we can keep encouraging local young businesses to grow and thrive. The Arts Warehouse is not a traditional gallery and is definitely a novel concept.
We invest a lot of money with the city to do the underground, which is not necessarily an attractive investment, but it is necessary. The infrastructure has to be there to support the growth of an area. To help encourage businesses, we contribute that development, otherwise it may fall to the developer. This is our way of encouraging businesses to come here.
What are some of your main goals for 2020?
The investment in the Northwest-Southwest corridor is our most important project. We are also investing in a park where famous tennis players, such as the Williams sisters, trained. To date, we have invested about $3 million in a $25 million project that is intended to concentrate activity in this area.
To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://delraycra.org/