Delray Beach Economic Development Report

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By: Christina Morrison Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

You may have noticed the growth of the auto industry in Delray Beach over the past decade. Although Delray Beach has been home to some dealerships for years, the industry has kicked into high gear here lately. Some background info:

Boca Raton and Boynton Beach have not been welcoming to auto dealers for decades, hence leaving it to Delray Beach to grow this industry. Delray Beach is far enough from the closest other areas for dealerships – Lighthouse Point/Pompano Beach to the South, Royal Palm Beach to the west, and West Palm Beach to the north – to make Delray a well-located “destination” for auto buying. The demographics in Delray Beach – and the vibrant and welcoming hospitality scene also make it an attractive location for the national and regional dealerships to invest.

The growth spurt started a little over a decade ago with the beautification of S. Federal Highway, between Linton Boulevard and the northern Boca border. Along with the beautification came changes in the city’s development regulations that enhanced the curb appeal of S. Federal, hence the stretch of palm trees, extensive landscaping and highway gardens in this area. By this time, there were a few auto dealers in the area, but upon completion of the beautification and the concurrent rejection of a Super-Walmart, the surrounding neighborhoods embraced the auto industry and welcomed their expansion along this corridor. The S. Federal Redevelopment Plan reflected this, which opened the door for more and larger dealerships to be built and prosper.

Why? Well, auto dealers make good neighbors – their properties are kept very neat and clean, are well-lighted and many have electronic surveillance and nightly guards on their properties, thereby making the surrounding areas less attractive to criminal activity.  In addition, they are quiet during evenings, unlike other commercial uses.

Over the past few years, with the expansion and addition of auto dealers Delray Beach is now considered a destination for auto buyers. There are currently 17 dealerships in Delray Beach – from Volkswagen and Kia to Lincoln and Mercedes – with more coming in the next few years.  Several of the dealers are re-positioning, with Ford and Chevrolet moving to S. Federal and the addition of more luxury dealerships, such as BMW, Range Rover, and Jaguar, to Linton Blvd., near Interstate-95.  Other dealers are expanding and enhancing, including Schumacher and Gunther.  Currently, all land with the Automotive-Commercial zoning classification in Delray Beach has been absorbed by dealers – most of the land never coming on the open market and the hunt is on for more land in these areas that may be suitable for the dealers’ various uses.

Auto dealers tend to bring high-paying jobs and commerce. One of the dealers – Ed Morse – has their corporate headquarters here with many of their executives living in  the city. Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce is working with the various dealers on different ways to enhance the car-buying experience here by encouraging partnerships with restaurants, hotels and other venues in town where their customers can be shuttled while waiting for their new car or service to their cars.  The auto dealers are also great corporate neighbors by making investments in, and sponsoring, our local cultural events and other activities.

Christina Morrison, P.A. is a Commercial Realtor with Carmel Real Estate & Management, based in Delray Beach.  She is a Community Activist and sits on the Boards of the Florida Realtors, Realtors’ Association of the Palm Beaches, Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, and also serves on the Executive Board as a Commissioner on the Criminal Justice Commission.  She is involved in all things Delray Beach.