By Jane Smith
Delray Beach has an alphabet soup of marketing agencies, three city commissioners say. They want to see a clear division of the agencies’ roles so that residents can tell what each one does.
In September, Mayor Cary Glickstein chastised the Downtown Development Authority for not sending a representative to explain the authority’s budget when it involved a tax levied on downtown property owners. Commissioner Shelly Petrolia echoed his concern.
The DDA board members took that rebuke seriously and practiced a presentation boiling it down to 30 minutes. They chose board member Ryan Boylston, founder of the Woo Creative marketing agency, to deliver it in mid-October.
But the City Commission gave him only 10 minutes because its agenda was lengthy that night.
“I can’t tell you how many times, people have come into this chamber, not understanding what you are, the DBMC, the CRA and the city’s economic development role is,” Glickstein said to Boylston.
“Ever since the DDA split in recent years, there has been mission creep and duplication of services.”
He was referring to the division over two years ago, when the DDA board voted to pull most of its money from the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative. The cooperative is a multi-agency partnership that now includes the city, the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce. The DDA still gives $30,000 annually to the cooperative for the 100-foot-tall Christmas tree.
Marjorie Ferrer, the DDA executive director, said at the time her agency wanted to focus on its mission of marketing downtown merchants and keeping the area clean and safe.
The cooperative, which had been known as the Downtown Marketing Cooperative, changed its name in 2010 to the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative.
Seven percent of the cooperative’s current budget of $689,280 goes to destination marketing. Also in the current budget year, the cooperative will receive 68.3 percent of the total from the city, its CRA and the chamber. The CRA is the biggest contributor, with $326,980 going to the cooperative.
At one time, Ferrer also was the executive director of the cooperative, but in 2010 the cooperative’s board voted not to renew her contract. Following that split, the DDA board asked the commission to contract with it to put on the special events for the city. Commissioners voted against that proposal and stayed with the cooperative to market its events, including the Christmas tree, Fourth of July fireworks and First Night, a family-oriented New Year’s Eve.
That is why the mayor said in October that he would like to see “all of your (DDA’s) marketing dollars go to the DBMC. It’s our events agency … everything they are marketing is in the downtown.
“I would like to see the DDA focus more on retail promotion and recruitment. That is what West Palm’s DDA does. In fact, I saw their staff in town this week recruiting our retailers,” Glickstein said.
Commissioner Jordana Jarjura praised the group for reducing its marketing costs by 25 percent and added, “But I’d like to see it go down further. It’s not my job, but up to your board. I see other areas where that money could be used.”
The mayor explained his thinking, “The CRA provides our facade improvements and business grants; they are funding clean and safe economic development. The DBMC is our events agency. I just don’t see anyone dedicated to the success of downtown retail. I know that you think you are, but I see a budget diluted by marketing, economic development, place-making, grants, sponsorships, and I think it’s an agency struggling for relevancy.”
He wants the DDA to update its cluster retail study and consult with Robert Gibbs, an urban retail consultant in Birmingham, Mich. Gibbs has achieved a guru-like status among downtown planners and visited Delray Beach in May. He spoke about “downtown retail and merchandising in the 21st century.”
Glickstein also suggested using the services of Joan Goodrich, the city’s new economic development manager. She was just hired in June from Broward County, where she led a recruiting team that helped attract, expand or retain 52 companies in Coral Springs. Her $78,000 salary is split 50-50 between the city and its CRA. She will reveal her business plan this month to the City Commission.
For now, the DDA seems to be charting its own course.
The DDA will update its retail cluster study next year using the same consultant, H. Blount Retail and Real Estate Research Consulting of Norfolk, Va., that did the 2005 study, said David Hand, DDA chairman, in written replies to emailed questions. The study will add new growth areas, such as SOFA (south of Atlantic) and West Atlantic Avenue, Hand said.
“The DDA has a professional relationship with him (Gibbs) and respect for his expertise,” Hand said. “The Delray Beach DDA board will keep him in mind for his expertise and will discuss opportunities as they arise moving forward.”
As to the city’s economic development manager, Hand said, the DDA “works with and has a professional relationship with Joan Goodrich and will continue in this regard.”
At the October workshop, Glickstein asked the DDA to return in six months “and tell us what we are doing in terms of a targeted retail strategy to really protect what we have, as opposed to being overrun by something we don’t want.”
Hand said the DDA “will update the City Commission every three months on the progress of board-approved goals and objectives, which center on the DDA’s three main focuses: economic development, place making and position marketing of the DDA district.”
Redevelopment a long-term process
Delray Beach also has a Community Redevelopment Agency with a $25.7 million budget. About half of its revenues are from property tax income. Another 33.5 percent, or $8.6 million, was carried over from the last financial year.
The agency recently received an extra 30 years to finish its job. “Many areas in the CRA district are still in transition, with substandard housing conditions, blighted commercial buildings, incomplete sidewalk networks and poor street conditions,” said Diane Colonna, executive director. “Redevelopment is a long-term process, and it has to be accomplished as the funding becomes available.”
The CRA also contracts with the Buzz Agency for its public relations and social media campaigns. The Buzz Agency and Woo Creative recently redesigned the CRA’s website. The CRA and its GreenMarket also received upgraded logos, with the GreenMarket getting a tagline that reads: A project of the CRA.
Two other South County cities rely on their CRAs to develop and market their downtowns.
Cities vary in approach
In Boca Raton, the Community Redevelopment Agency is nearing the end of its life, said Mayor Susan Haynie, who as a council member also sits on its board. Created in 1980, the agency floundered until 1988 when it issued a Downtown Development of Regional Impact order, which limits the CRA’s life to the approval of 8 million square feet. As of last year, the area had 15 percent left to develop, Haynie said.
The city is exploring setting up a downtown development district, Haynie said.
In Boynton Beach, the 31-year-old agency is having a harder time attracting developers. Its board, which consists of the City Commission and two community members, reluctantly agreed to give incentive financing to the 500 Ocean project on the premise that it would jump-start the stagnant downtown.
INSETS ABOVE: Marjorie Ferrer; Dianne Colonna
All figures from 2014/15 budgets
Sources: Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency, Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative, Downtown Development Authority