By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read August 2020 — Months into the coronavirus landscape, the pandemic continues to accelerate change across the world. In Palm Beach County, the city of Delray Beach already had its eyes set on the future even before Covid-19 began changing the local environment. And though the city has not been immune to the squeezing and contracting of the economy resulting from the pandemic, key construction projects and infrastructure improvements, as well as recent vulnerability studies, have Delray Beach ready to come out of this crisis better than before.
“2019 was a transition year for the city. We moved from one city manager to an interim manager and finally, we hired a second one.” Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia told Invest: Palm Beach. “We remained in good hands though and we are in good shape,” she said.
Through its leadership transition, the city concluded a couple of city studies, a vulnerability study and a sea wall study, that will be “instrumental for us going forward,” Petrolia said.
“Tides are rising around us and water is becoming a real issue. We also undertook several infrastructure studies to get a sense of the state of our pipes, our seawalls and the stormwater drainage system throughout the city. These critical works shed light over where our vulnerabilities lie, which we are addressing.” The city is looking at a $400-million investment to address the vulnerabilities highlighted by these studies. “The water issue we are dealing with is not expected to come as a tidal wave. Rather, it is a slow but progressive issue. It is rising and invading our well systems, pushing further west underground in the aquifers. The more we know, the more we can deal with the issues over time,” she said.
Known for its tourism, hospitality, and service industries, the local economy has taken major blows due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, construction projects are ongoing, highlighting consumer and developer confidence in the city. “We have been blessed to have so much building going on, with people interested in coming into our city and developing,” Petrolia said. “We are under construction in several areas of our city. One of the largest areas currently under construction is the Atlantic Crossing building. The building industry is keeping a lot of people afloat and in business at a time when most people are unable to continue doing business. We are in tremendously good shape, and primed to come out of the post-COVID-19 starting blocks in a great way.”
Along with city leadership, the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has led efforts to beautify and redevelop parts of the city while providing support to the local business community and residents. A focus of the CRA is the Northwest-Southwest neighborhood, which lies in a federally-designated Opportunity Zone.”We have the land and are open to working with a third party to develop it,” Executive Director Renee A. Jadusingh told Invest: Palm Beach.
“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,” she said.
To help local businesses during the pandemic, especially those in the service industry, the city has allowed more spaces to be geared specifically toward food pick-up, loosened strict signage standards, and waived parking meter charges. Similarly, the CRA set up its COVID-19 Resource Programs page that details help for both businesses and residents, including access to different loan programs, rent support and food and nutrition services.
For the rest of the year, the priority for the city is to get through COVID-19 and “see how much retention rate we can hold onto,” Petrolia said. “It is critical to look at the businesses that we have and figure out how we can help them survive. It is also important to continue to attract businesses looking to relocate to Delray Beach. As we move further down the road, we will surely see new businesses springing up, and new ways of doing business too.”
For more information, visit: