Downtown Summit

The West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority (DDA) invited the public to the annual Downtown Summit. Due to safety precautions, this year’s event was virtual.

Raphael Clemente, Executive Director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority, reports on the organization’s new business assistance programs, new protocols for existing programming adapted to remain viable and effective in the pandemic context, and the vision for Downtown’s future.

Watch the full presentation below.

Submitted Questions:

DDA is partners with CRA.  We were promised a renovation of Evernia and Datura, the 100-300 blocks.  We’ve heard the CRA has redirected that money.  Is it true?  When can we expect the new streetscapes on Evernia and Datura? 

The Evernia and Datura streetscape projects remain on the City’s work plan for the coming years. However, with reductions to budgets across all City departments it is not clear when these projects will be funded. More information will be available in the coming months.  

Why have you paused the Clean Team?  It is very easy to maintain social distance when walking around downtown, even on Clematis, if you go there in the morning. 

This was not an easy decision to make, but one that we were forced to due to COVID. Due to the pandemic and after further discussions with our partner for this program, the Lord’s Place, we felt at this time it was best to pause the program. One the primary reasons for this is that the Clean Team uses the DDA office as their base of operations, for equipment storage, to take breaks, etc. With COVID restrictions on indoor spaces it was difficult to have DDA staff, security personnel, and Clean Team all present at once. Much of the work that the Clean Team was doing is being done by our landscaping contractor for the time being.  

For businesses that have been operating in the DDA district that are feeling the effects of COVID-19, how can we learn about any support programs from the DDA? 

For updates on what the DDA has accomplished during the pandemic, you can find a full update on our website at DowntownWPB.com/Updates. We also share updates on programs in our weekly newsletter, distributed on Monday’s. If you are not receiving our newsletter you can sign up on our website at DowntownWPB.com. The DDA has also launched a new incentive program Tier One to assist businesses with their rent for up to 6 months.  Information on our Incentive Programs can be found at DowntownWPB.com/work. 

Would the DDA ever have usage or form a relationship for potential ambassadors? Someone that lives, own property and operates small business in the DDA district? How can one work with the DDA about implementing new community development programs? 

This is a great idea.  Yes, we are open to new programs and projects that would be beneficial to our downtown.  To discuss this idea you can email Raphael Clemente, Executive Director at RClemente@DowntownWPB.com or Teneka James-Feaman, Executive Associate Director at TJames@DowntownWPB.com.  We look forward to speaking with you.  

For small businesses that are considering expanding in the DDA district, how does one find out about the status of some of the grant programs or if the small business may qualify for any DDA support programs? 

The DDA Incentive programs can be found on our website at DowntownWPB.com/work.  To schedule a meeting and to discuss our incentive programs, email Teneka James-Feaman, Executive Associate Director at TJames@DowntownWPB.com.  We look forward to speaking with you.  

We recently left our self-imposed “quarantine” at 3 PM on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, to walk over to Clematis to get the NYT. We were shocked to see crowds of people standing and partying on the sidewalks outside two restaurants, one on Olive and the other on Clematis. No one was wearing a mask. There were security personnel there and they did not approach them. What is being done on this? 

DDA security ambassadors can and do remind people about behaving responsibly regarding social distancing, wearing masks, etc. However, beyond reminding people to adhere to social distancing and other recommended steps, the security ambassadors have no authority to enforce these guidelines.  

We were invited to provide feedback to DDA on specific items to improve Evernia district. What happened with the feedback? What is happening with the Evernia updates? 

The feedback that was received on the Evernia project has been included in the City’s design recommendations and will be brought back to the community once there is a proposed design for the project.  

As a small business owner in downtown, I promptly applied for funding by the City since my landlord did not permit any concessions for lease payments.  I never heard back from the City and tried to follow up but was never able to reach anyone.  Is there a plan to offer any more support for downtown businesses? 

The DDA provided $150,000 to the City’s Economic recovery loan program.  In addition to the loan funds, the DDA has launched the Tier One incentive program to assist businesses with a portion of their rent for up to 6 months.  The DDA’s incentive program details can be found at DowntownWPB.com/work.  In addition to the incentive program and grant, we have increased our online presence to provide increased awareness of our businesses and their offerings.  Businesses are encouraged to send all promotions to Marketing Director Tiffany Faublas at TFaublas@DowntowWPB.com 

Have you guys engaged cleaning companies about COVID certifications? 

The DDA worked with Custom Cleaning and Management Services (CCMS).  CCMS hosted several training sessions for our downtown businesses that covered topics including identifying the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting; how to properly use and remove Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); and how to prevent cross-contamination while cleaning; among others. Participating businesses also received a cleaning starter kit that includes a gallon of Bioesque disinfectant, paper towels, a spray bottle, masks, disposable gloves and how-to infographics explaining steps needed to properly clean coronavirus off a surface.  

The 500 block of Clematis remains rather run down, very noisy at night, with drunkenness too apparent. Further, local entertainment efforts have been more problematic regarding noise and alcohol excess–for the local residents. Are there any plans afoot, regarding the development of this 500 block? 

The 500 block is one of the most iconic and popular blocks in downtown. The area is an active and vibrant place, with businesses that are predominantly dining and nightlife. The public right of way of the block has recently been rebuilt and has the same streetscape treatment as the rest of Clematis Street. The majority of the properties in the 500 block are designated historic and thus these buildings cannot be demolished.  

Will the Farmers Market and West Palm Beach Antique and Flea Market on the 300 block of Clematis Street return? 

The City of West Palm Beach events department is working on a plan to host events safely downtown during this pandemic. They are internally meeting to discuss how to proceed.  For up to date information on events, please call 561.822.1515. 

Why aren’t there any events being held at the amphitheater (observing 6’ apart distancing)? Or outdoor movies? Some of us are desperate for socialization and/or entertainment to get us out of the house. 

Many of the privately produced events planned to be hosted in the amphitheater this year were cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic.  The City of West Palm Beach Community Events Department has recently launched a drive-in movie theatre event called Show on the Go.  The City of West Palm Beach events department is working on a plan to host events safely downtown during this pandemic.  They are internally meeting to discuss how to proceed.  For up to date information on events, please call 561.822.1515 or visit wpb.org/government/community-events/community-events

Why are homeless people allowed to camp out right in front of the Visitors’ Center, with their blankets, bedding, bags of stuff, suitcases, etc?  Is the city still playing that Shark song and the other silly song by the lakefront building during the night to keep the homeless from camping out there?  People aren’t allowed by ordinance to sleep in our parks.  Couldn’t the city designate the “green” as a park? 

The challenge of managing issues of homelessness in public spaces is significant. Downtown West Palm Beach, like so many other cities in America, is facing what is a growing problem. There are many laws in place that provide protections to the homeless and limit what can be done in situations where individuals have no place to go. The police department, security, mental health professionals, and social workers are working collaboratively to address this problem in the most effective and humane way possible.  

Has construction started at 314 Clematis Street? 

No, full construction as not begun. Some preliminary demo has taken place in the space.   

Anymore development coming to Rosemary Square? 

Submit questions regarding Rosemary Square development to: https://www.rosemarysquarewpb.com/contact-us 

Is Tier One Grant still available? 

The first round of applications have been submitted for review.  Visit www.DowntownWPB.com/Work on Thursday, October 1, 2020 for additional details.