Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Up Close with Renee Jadusingh

For Renee Jadusingh, executive director of the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the “community” part of her title is always at the top of her mind.

“For our staff, I try to instill in them that you are the CRA; you have to go out knowing you are our face, our voice, our presence. But also, how can you help people? So if you see somebody, and you’re talking to them, what is their need? That is how I operate myself, and I tell everyone here: We’re here to serve.”

Jadusingh, 42, has been running the CRA since 2019 from its modest headquarters in a historic home adjacent to the old Doc’s on Swinton Avenue. It’s a position that allows the almost-Florida native—her family moved here from Connecticut when Renee was 3—to express her passion for service in a number of ways. At its heart is the core mission of the CRA, established in 1985 to eliminate slum and blight in its district of eight subareas, spanning 20 percent of the city proper.

Under the leadership of Jadusingh and her team of about 15 employees, the CRA plants trees, develops new alleys and roadways and sidewalks, installs traffic calming measures and neighborhood signage, and improves lighting and water mains. Osceola Park has been the most recent recipient of the CRA’s time and largesse, with $10 million infused into the neighborhood, in a redevelopment effort that is 80-percent complete as of this writing. Pineapple Grove owes much of its vibrance to the CRA’s efforts.

The CRA also oversees such community staples as the GreenMarket program and Arts Warehouse. And the organization buys land, which has been used for the construction of much-needed workforce and affordable housing, including both apartments and single-family homes.

Jadusingh wears a lot of hats, in other words, but she wears them with charm and enthusiasm, whether presenting monthly CRA updates to its five-member board (aka the city commissioners) or relating such projects to the public in quarterly YouTube videos. Transparency, she says, is vital to the CRA’s values, whether through analog means—mailed newsletters to local residents, which Jadusingh re-instituted—or digital ones, like a CRA Instagram page, which didn’t exist before Jadusingh’s tenure.

While Jadusingh says “everyone likes what we we’re doing,” much of the CRA’s work can seem invisible to the community, with major improvements happening underground. Moreover, its projects span years, not months; hers is not a job for the instantly gratified.

“I think time is our friend and also our enemy,” she says. “We are only here for a certain amount of time. We have 21 years left, and then we sunset. We work ourselves out of business. … And a lot has happened up until now. So the tree, yes, it’s planted; you’re not going to see the results until later on. I think we’re seeing a lot of the growth in downtown. … and now it’s the Set neighborhood where we’ll see that next resurgence. It’s not going to happen overnight.

“For me, the fun part of the job is that we can buy a building, or see a piece of land, or think of a project, and yes, it’ll take time, but one day you’ll see this beautiful building.”

Jadusingh has enjoyed a relatively quick learning curve since accepting her initial position at the CRA, when her experience in Delray Beach was essentially limited to one visit—a dinner at Dada, steps from where she now works. At the time, she was staff counsel for the Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA in Miami. Indeed, in another life, she was ensconced in the legal world, earning a Master of Law degree in Intercultural Human Rights from St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law in Miami Gardens. She served as managing attorney of her own firm, Jadusingh Law, P.A., for a little more than a year before the Overtown CRA position sent her on a different course.

Still, she says, “though I’m not a practicing attorney, I end up using the skills that I learned every day, either in looking at real estate contracts, looking at development agreements, knowing how to navigate the property appraiser. I think it helps train your brain in a certain way to analyze things.”

Just don’t expect her to return to the grind of the legal profession. “I really enjoy working with CRAs,” she says. “Delray has been such a welcoming and kind place to me, and I truly enjoy it. I look forward to many, many years of redevelopment.”

This article is from the September/October 2023 issue of Delray magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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