Dear readers – since I’ve been involved with the property at 314 Clematis Street through this blog for many years, I wanted to post this email which I sent to our City Commissioners regarding the future of this property.
Dear City Commissioners,
I’m writing today to ask that you do not approve Resolution No. 22-23 in Monday’s CRA Board meeting.
The agenda states “The Community Redevelopment Agency purchased the property located at 314 Clematis Street in 2019 for the purposes of encouraging businesses to downtown.” This is not the entire story. This video, created by the City in 2018 explains why the city was interested in this space.
The City’s vision was not a restaurant and private parking spaces. It was “Give business owners who might otherwise be priced out of Clematis Street a way in”
In the City’s February 2020 announcement about the Thoroughfare (314 Clematis St) Mayor Keith James stated:
“Thoroughfare falls directly in line with my vision to create a community of opportunity for all,” said West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James. “Entrepreneurs and small businesses like those in this pop-up are the lifeblood of a prosperous West Palm Beach and gathering a group of start-ups like these on Clematis Street, the heart of our downtown, gives them incredible exposure to residents and visitors from all walks of life. I’m excited to support this project.”Mayor Keith James
The City/DDA/CRA Staff, Downtown Small Business owners, Volunteers and many others have put five years of work (and a whole lot of money) towards the goal of using 314 Clematis as a hub for small diverse businesses.
Abandoning the millions that was spent in redoing the Alleyway essentially transforming it into a private driveway, and converting prime downtown real estate into a private 30 car parking garage can only be described as a bizarre change in direction.
1909 is a local organization which is a “coworking space, accelerator program, event venue, and creative community helping guide entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, and small businesses“. 1909 has put together a competitive proposal that will fulfil the City’s vision in purchasing 314 Clematis St.
Accepting Brand Atlantic’s proposal is a betrayal of all that work, investment by the City and other stakeholders made so far.
Please consider 1909’s proposal as one that fulfills the investment that the City has made to this space and one that will bring the diversity into Clematis Street that it so badly needs.
Here is some history.
I have been personally involved in this space since the CRA got involved in 2017. The City understood then that Clematis Street didn’t need more large restaurant spaces – what was needed was space that acts as a multiplying force, bringing energy and a “cluster of small businesses” which will “add diversity to Clematis Street”
Chris Roog, who was at the time West Palm Beach Economic Development Director, justified the CRA’s lease of the first floor of 314 Clematis Street:
“We were responding to vacant retail, and the concern about what is happening to downtown from a business aspect. If we could cluster small businesses and popups to rent we can make a destination and be successful.” … “We want to add a different type of component and retailer to the street. What we have is a great chance to improve Clematis Street and react to what’s happening in retail and civic life. And a lot of things that we need to respond to in order to keep our city great and continue to grow.”
The events of the next five years are very well documented in the Palm Beach Post.
By February of 2019 $900,000 had been spent on the space.
In May of 2019 the city discussed acquiring the space for $7.5 million.
A key component of this space was connecting Clematis Street to the Alleyway, which was about to undergo a transformation as part of the Clematis Streetscape project.
When COVID hit, the CRA was still committed to the concept and committed an additional $3 million to the build-out.
Fast forward to 2022 and even though the Streetscape has been completed, the Alleyway has been redone, at a cost of an estimated $2 million, the Thoroughfare is still empty.
On Clematis Street, the Brand Atlantic plan is to build out yet another restaurant space (no word on if there is a tenant, or who it will be). And behind that would be 20 – 30 parking spaces (to support the office tenants upstairs).
Thank you for your time, and please vote no on Resolution No. 22-23