The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: CRA keeps arts-support project in-house

By Jane Smith

    A Delray Beach agency scrapped responses from two potential partners and decided to go forward alone to turn its Arts Warehouse into an arts incubator.
    “My position is that we made a promise to the artists,” said Paul Zacks, a board member of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. He made those comments at the agency’s first February meeting when the board discussed the two responses received on its Arts Warehouse.
    Neither response fit the request, said Thuy Shutt, CRA assistant director.
    The Institute for Civic Achievement Inc. is run by Tom Fleming. He described his firm’s role as “facilitating the role of developers,” but he did not provide financial details of how that would happen.
    The other respondent, SW Artist Alley LLC, is run by lawyer Joe White, whose company had outbid the CRA on the Artists Alley warehouses last year. After buying them, he raised the rents so that the space was not affordable to many artists. His latest plan calls for razing the CRA’s Arts Warehouse and creating a 30,000-square-foot art-themed project called Artist Alley.
    White did not provide any specifics about how it would be managed. As to the financing, he wrote, “I have the financial resources to advance this project.”
    His architect, George Brewer, told the CRA board members, “There’s no question that artists need to be supported … our project will provide the foot traffic.”
    But artists and their supporters disagreed.
    “The bottom line is: Do you have a commitment to the arts or to a high-rent development,” said Susan Romaine, an artist in the Pineapple Grove Arts District, just north of Atlantic Avenue and home to many artists.
    Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon, a board member of the Pineapple Grove Arts District, said, “Arts bring a huge amount of economic impact. … Let’s help our artists.”
    The board voted 6-0 to close the partnering process, focus on renovating the warehouse and start a search for a management company. Board member Cathy Balestriere was absent.
    The CRA has nearly all the permits needed to renovate the warehouse that it bought for $1 million.
    “I’m struggling with spending $2.5 million for this when West Atlantic needs it,” CRA Board Chairman Reggie Cox said before voting to support it. “I want a connection with the West Atlantic neighborhood.”

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