Saturday, April 13, 2024

Arts Garage gets another chance, FAU looks for state money & other items of note

Arts Garage gets a reprieve—with conditions

Arts Garage may be getting favorable reviews from its patrons, but the notices Tuesday night from the Delray Beach City Commission were much more critical.

       With its lease for roughly 10,000 square feet in Pineapple Grove expiring next month, Arts Garage wanted the commission to extend the lease for 10 years at the same, below-market rate of $800 per month. The group also wanted a purchase option at the end of the lease. Arts Garage offered nothing in return except to continue providing creative programming. To make its case, Arts Garage turned out many supporters, from as far away as Parkland and Atlantis. All spoke passionately.

       The argument flopped. Showing more consensus than on many recent high-profile issues, the commission rejected the idea of a 10-year lease. The offer to Arts Garage likely will be more like three to five years. There will be new demands for improved management and accountability. The commission wants more programming aimed at minority residents who live west of Swinton Avenue and more diversity on the Arts Garage board, which includes no African-Americans.

       That demand came from Al Jacquet, the commission’s only minority member, but others supported the idea, saying that an organization that accepts city money is obligated to serve the whole community. Those who spoke for Arts Garage were white and skewed older.

       The new lease may contain a clause that allows the city to opt out if Arts Garage isn’t meeting its commitments. The lease almost certainly will contain a clause requiring city approval for any collaboration between Arts Garage and other groups that might share the property. And there probably won’t be a purchase option, to protect the city’s interest in a site that will be worth a lot in several years.

       Jordana Jarjura called the 280 emails she had received in support of Arts Garage “a testament” to the programming. Jarjura, though, called it “a disservice to make this a conversation about whether you support the arts. . .I have to balance that with fiscal responsibility.”

       Jarjura noted that aside from the subsidized lease, Delray Beach—with the Community Redevelopment Agency as the source—had given Arts Garage $1.4 million. Yet Arts Garage, she said, did not consult with Delray before expanding into Pompano Beach, which Jarjura described as “a direct competitor.”

       Nor did Arts Garage adhere to the current contract, which stated that the group would buy the space for $2.5 million. Jarjura wanted to know why the group hadn’t even asked for small donations from patrons. Instead, she said, Arts Garage made raising money for renovations a higher priority. But as Jarjura pointed out, a benefactor paid for the renovations. Either way, Jarjura asked, “Why do you renovate property you don’t own?”

       Mayor Cary Glickstein focused on management issues. He said 35 people had quit or been fired since the commission approved the lease three years ago. He noted that an auditor had called Arts Garage’s non-programming operations “a train wreck,” adding, “I have no confidence in the current management.” He wants a timetable for when Arts Garage will correct the problems identified in the auditor’s report.

       Yet Glickstein spoke for most commissioners when he said, “I support Arts Garage.” Mitch Katz said he had received as many emails related to Arts Garage as he had on the iPic project. While most of those were “canned,” the Arts Garage emails were original. “If not Arts Garage,” Shelly Petrolia asked, “then what?”

       City Attorney Noel Pfeffer said the commission could extend the current lease for up to six months, giving Arts Garage and the city time to negotiate the points that arose Tuesday night. If the Arts Garage board takes the commission’s comments as tough but constructive criticism, Arts Garage can become an even stronger cultural asset. That will require a new perspective from the board. “The optics from where we sit,” Glickstein said to the Arts Garage supporters, “are different from where you sit.” The board met Wednesday night. I will have more on this next week.

FAU budget requests

       Prospects aren’t encouraging for two of Florida Atlantic University’s key state budget requests.

       FAU wants $7 million for Phase 2 of its Life Sciences Initiative at the Jupiter campus, in collaboration with Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Florida Institute. FAU also wants $14.7 million for a classroom building related to that program with the biotech heavyweights.

       The House and Senate budgets include no money for the classroom building. The Senate budget includes $4.1 million for the Life Sciences Initiative, but the House budget allocates no money.

       The university also is seeking $3.5 million for its Tech Runway program, a public-private collaboration that offers mentors and other assistance to fledgling entrepreneurs. According to the FAU website, the program is modeled on one at MIT.

       Since Gov. Rick Scott dodges all questions except those about jobs, the mentoring program would seem to be one he would embrace. Last year, though, Scott vetoed $1 million for the program, citing a vague reason for doing so. The House budget proposes $1 million for the runway, and the Senate just $250,000.

       While FAU seeks a comparatively modest investment to help the state and Palm Beach County maximize their massive investment in biotech, the governor and—for now —the Senate would give $250 million from next year’s budget to Enterprise Florida. The state’s job-recruiting agency could offer that money as incentives to companies seeking to expand or to move here.

       Yet as multiple news reports have shown, Enterprise Florida vastly overpromises on jobs. Meanwhile, that quarter-billion would sit in a bank, rather than become an investment in Florida’s economy. Incentives can help in certain situations; Boca Raton has a $5 million fund of its own. But as Boca also shows, the best chance for the state to break out of its tourism-agricultural-construction economy is to cultivate entrepreneurs.

Boca beach restoration

       Prospects are much more encouraging that the Legislature will help Boca Raton with money to replace sand on the city’s beaches.

       Boca is seeking the highest amount—$4.8 million—for its central beach project. The city also wants $158,000 for the mostly finished north-end work, $1 million for the southern portion and $392,000 for the Boca Raton Inlet. That money would augment beach restoration money from the federal government and county tourist tax revenue. With Delray Beach having recently completed a major project, the city wants only about $25,000.

       Statewide, there are roughly $30 million worth of requests for beach and inlet management money. The Senate budget allocates $30 million and the House budget about $28 million.


About the Author

Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.

Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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