WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (August 27, 2020) – More than 100 residents, investors and business owners logged onto Zoom and Facebook Live last week to hear Keith James, Mayor of West Palm Beach, and Raphael Clemente, Executive Director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA), report 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.
The featured program that was among the most impactful was “Dining on the Spot” that extended table service onto the streets, sidewalks and parking lots. Launched in early May, the additional tables, chairs and umbrellas provided to restaurants was a lifeline for many and has become a template for similar programs throughout the City and country, according to Mayor James. The DDA also provided restaurants and retail stores with safe cleaning protocol workshops, lists of safe cleaning supplies and a best practices toolkit that includes recommendations on cleaning and disinfecting with the public in mind.
“Once we knew what the business restrictions would be, we moved fast to develop helpful programs for our business community,” said Clemente. “Our restaurants are very appreciative and have expressed to us almost daily that this option allows them to operate profitably, despite the continued restrictions.”
“The City of West Palm Beach worked with the DDA to quickly develop detailed local intelligence about the challenges our restaurants faced and developed resources and solutions to help businesses operate in ways that could allow them to keep their doors open at a time when many restaurants elsewhere were permanently closing,” said West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James. “We appreciate the organization’s willingness to support downtown businesses, to quickly pivot and to allocate the resources needed to help our businesses survive.”
For struggling businesses, the DDA provided a total of $150,000 in low-interest loans to the City’s Recovery Assistance Fund, as well as $12,500 to the Downtown tech accelerator 1909 for their “Project 1909” initiative, which helps pair businesses in need with entrepreneurs that can help them adapt to the COVID-19 economy. Both programs contributed to helping sustain over 20 Downtown businesses. Additionally, the DDA has also re-launched its Tier One Grant program that helps businesses pay their rent for up to 6 months. Applications for this program are open until September 30, 2021 or until funds are exhausted.
Other DDA efforts include providing branded masks to Downtown businesses and a dedicated Downtown To-Go webpage for restaurants offering curbside pickup and delivery.
The DDA typically announces upcoming programs at its annual Downtown Summit but like most things this year, the plan for 2021 is still fluid, focused on a major “re-set.”
“I wish I had a crystal ball,” Clemente said. “And I know its cliché, but everyone at the DDA is ready to be a partner to our businesses and adapt to the new normal. For those who missed the event, the Downtown Summit recording remains on the DDA’s Facebook page for viewing. All questions asked during the Downtown Summit will be answered on the DDA’s website. For more information on Downtown West Palm Beach and COVID-19 updates, please visit the DowntownWPB.com.
About the Downtown Development Authority
The West Palm Beach DDA is an independent taxing district created in 1967 by a special act of the Florida Legislature. Its mission is to promote and enhance a safe, vibrant Downtown for our residents, businesses and visitors through the strategic development of economic, social and cultural opportunities.
For more information about the DDA or Downtown West Palm Beach, please visit DowntownWPB.com or call the DDA at (561) 833-8873.