By Jane Smith
    
    Over the past 30 years, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency has spent the most in the West Atlantic neighborhood, according to an analysis released in late March.
    In that area, its biggest expense, $24.1 million, went to buy land, according to the CRA draft expense list pulled from the Munilytics Inc. report. The firm was hired last fall to analyze the taxable values in the CRA’s eight subareas. The agency contains about 20 percent of the city’s land.  
    For much of 2015, the City Commission and CRA board members were at loggerheads over the perceived richness of the CRA coffers when the city didn’t have enough money to provide services outside of the district.
    Much of the dispute can be attributed to lack of communication, the Munilytics report said. The two groups met twice last year.
    “Here we again emphasize that everyone believed that meeting quarterly or monthly would help all parties work together and communicate better,” Chris Wallace, Munilytics president, wrote in the report.
    On April 12, the CRA board members and the city commissioners will have a joint workshop. The CRA wants to present the complete Munilytics report to the City Commission at that time.
    CRA board members agreed to extend Munilytics’ contract to April 14 to ensure they have all of the economic impact data.
    On March 24, Wallace told the CRA board members that the agency’s economic impact over 30 years was “substantial. … Thousands of permanent jobs were created.”
    He explained how his firm calculates economic impacts. First, debt service costs for principal and interest are subtracted from the total invested. For the CRA, the agency had invested $213.1 million over 30 years, less $39.5 million for debt service to arrive at an initial impact of $173.6 million. Using multipliers, his firm estimated that the direct impact was $374.3 million over 30 years and 3,600 jobs were created.
    He also gave impacts for select projects in the CRA area:
    • Atlantic Grove, mixed-use project on Atlantic Avenue and sitting just west of Swinton Avenue, is valued at $9.9 million, created an estimated 169 jobs during construction and will have 66 permanent, onsite jobs when fully occupied.
    • Pineapple Grove Village, just north of Atlantic Avenue with two condo buildings and six townhomes, is valued at $35.6 million and created 838 jobs during construction.
    • Hyatt Place Delray Beach, a hotel with 134 rooms on Northeast Second Avenue, is valued at $13.7 million, created 291 jobs during construction and provides an estimated 87 jobs.
    • Seagate Hotel and Spa, a full-service resort with 154 rooms at 1000 E. Atlantic Ave., is valued at $25.5 million, created 492 jobs during construction and provides an estimated 140 jobs.  
    “It is very important for the City Commission to respect the efforts of the (CRA) board and to consider their recommendations and interim decisions that are offered or executed,” Wallace wrote in the report. “It is also very important for the CRA board to be consistently in lock step with the policies of the City Commission.”
    In other action at the CRA meeting:
    • Board members agreed to allow staff to hire its own engineers for the first time in an effort to speed up the development process of CRA projects.
    • Executive Director Jeff Costello received a 5 percent raise over his current salary of $132,893, on a 4-2 vote. Herman Stevens had left the meeting.
    CRA Chairman Reggie Cox and board member Joseph Bernadel voted no. They wanted Costello to do a self-evaluation, submit it to the board in two weeks and then the board would determine the amount of the increase.
    Bill Branning persuaded fellow board members to agree to the 5 percent raise that was based on their evaluations of Costello. Five marked his performance as outstanding, while two said he met expectations.

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