Delray Beach: Arts Garage gets chance to buy its home

By Betty Wells

    The Arts Garage, Delray’s Beach’s small, popular music and theater venue, needs to raise $2.5 million in 30 months to pay the city for its home — 10,000 square feet of retail space at the Old School Square parking garage. The executive director believes it can happen.
    Dozens of residents praised the nonprofit during an April 16 public hearing packed with more than 200 people at City Hall. The City Commission then voted to let the Arts Garage stay in the spot and have until 2015 to pay for it.
    The law firm Kanner & Pintaluga had wanted to buy the space, saying it needs room to expand from about 90 employees to 200.
    Proposed were three options: sell the space to the firm for $2.5 million; sell about half the space to the firm for about $1 million, leaving the Arts Garage in place; or sell all the space to the firm Schmier and Fuerring, which would have leased it back to the Arts Garage. The commission unanimously rejected those options.
    “The answer is clear,” said Mayor Cary Glickstein. “The best user for that space is the performing arts center we are lucky enough to have there now.”
    Commissioners Shelly Petrolia and Angeleta Gray voted with Glickstein; Adam Frankel voted no, and Al Jacquet was absent.
    Alyona Ushe, executive director of Creative City Collaborative, the nonprofit that runs the Arts Garage, said the organization has raised about $700,000 in the past year. When created a little more than two years ago, the group got 75 percent of its budget from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. Now, it’s the opposite — the CRA portion is 25 percent, she said, as the CCC has received donations and grants from national and local foundations.
    “Two and a half million dollars for a capital campaign is not a lot of money,” she said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to raise that.”
    After the meeting Petrolia said that she, too, was confident the nonprofit could raise the money. “I’m not really surprised at the support people have shown,” she said. “It brings so much to the city, and the right decision was to keep it.”
    Kenner & Pintaluga offered the city $1.7 million for the property last year. The Arts Garage then told the city it would offer up to $2.5 million. The law firm matched that.
    Jensen Grant, a lawyer with Kenner & Pintaluga, told commissioners that the firm has grown from 10 or 12 employees in 2006 to 94. The employees are not an insular community, he said, and eat lunch and dinner in the city. The firm is at 101 Pugliese’s Way.
    “Unfortunately unless we’re given the additional space here in downtown Delray, we’re probably going to be looking at moving out of Delray Beach,” Grant said.
    Frankel said he was “disappointed in the campaign of fear put on by the Arts Garage,” and said he believed the city should accommodate both organizations. Boynton Beach has made incentive offers to the law firm, and Frankel said “we’ll … be reading about Boynton Beach rolling out the red carpet” for the firm.
    Glickstein said that while an expanded law firm is a welcome addition, “it does little to advance our long-term goals.”
    The mayor cited a study, Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts, that was released in 2012. The study showed that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations pumped almost $45 million into the Delray Beach economy in 2011, nearly four times as much as comparably populated cities such as Miami Beach; Boulder, Colo.; and Portland, Maine.
    The study collected data from 12 nonprofit Delray Beach groups to calculate money spent in the community, jobs produced, how much audiences spend outside the venue and other effects.
    The Arts Garage, in Old School Square at 180 NE First St., was not included in the study.
    The Puppetry Arts Center of the Palm Beaches, which offers puppet shows and has a puppet museum, occupies the space in Old School Square along with the Arts Garage. Its lease with the city expires in 2015; the organization has told the city it will not renew its lease.

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