By Tara Monks The Pineapple Staff Writer This two-part series introduces Delray’s unique, resident-oriented method for planning the city’s future. Vision 2020: Future with History recently took place, and laid the framework for the city’s strategic plans for development, engagement and success. On March 23, 2013, the Delray Beach City Commission hosted 125 participants at the Delray Beach Marriot Hotel for Vision 2020: Future with History, a day-long strategy meeting in which Delray Beach residents explore, record and prioritize the community’s desires. Like past Vision processes, the 2013 event was aimed at creating the community’s ‘wish list’ for the City to implement, and laying out a pathway to achieve the next level of success with the engagement of the community. The committee was appointed by the City Commission to set up the framework that will be followed by all policymakers, lawmakers and city planners for the next seven years. According to Vision 2020 participants, the experience was “needed,” “worthwhile,” “engaging,” and “motivating.” Delray’s Vision process dates back more than twenty years, and its use of resident collaboration has been responsible for the city’s unique vision, which has continually integrated current challenges with opportunities. The successes of previous Vision projects can be seen in Delray’s thriving downtown and expanding cityscape. Visions 2000: Where Are We Now?, held in 1989, supported the city’s proposed $21 million bond that paid for a “Decade of Excellence,” a program aimed at revitalizing city infrastructure. Investments funded a significant repair and upgrade to the city’s water and sewer systems, streets, drainage, parks and fire stations. Funds also went to the complete reconstruction of the streetscape; the preservation and reuse of Old School Square as a museum, community center and theater; and the renovation of the Municipal Tennis Center and addition of a tennis stadium. While Vision 2000 addressed mainly tangible issues, such as infrastructure and resurfacing, it also labeled the school system as the most important priority in Delray’s future. The project resulted in the citywide plan to add two schools to the district and slash the number of attendance zones in the city by half, a measure that calmed neighborhood rivalries and instilled fellowship. Visions 2005, held in 1993, addressed societal issues more than the tangible, and focused on seven main topics: youth involvement; neighborhood revitalization; economic development; crime prevention; public education/public schools; government coordination/involvement; and human relations. Catapulted by the goals of the meeting, the city added music, drama and arts and crafts to its afterschool programs, and introduced programs such as tennis and golf to disadvantaged children. The Teen 505 Center was established for youth between the ages of 12 and 18. The Downtown Development Authority created “Jazz on the Ave” to increase the number of potential customers to downtown and the city partnered with the Community Child Care Center to offer life skills courses such as parenting skills and job readiness. Booster clubs, the Delray Beach Youth Council, the Coalition for Community Renewal and Pineapple Grove were also grown of the Visions 2005 seeds. Other Vision 2005 Results Included:
- A strong Parks & Rec department that maintains and distributes a monthly and quarterly calendar of events; provides adequate transportation to and from afterschool activities; provides youth with community service hours to support volunteerism and develops relationships with nonprofits to maintain park accessibility.
- City-sponsored and assisted community-enhancing cultural festivals such as the Roots Festival, Cinco de Mayo, Multi-Cultural Festival, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast and Heritage Month.
- The implementation of the Strategic Task Team Initiative, which focused on working with individual neighborhood associations to develop a comprehensive Improvement Plans, addressing quality of life issues.
- The implementation of the Resident’s Academy, designed to educate residents on City Departments and services, to better improve communications between residents and city officials.
- Atlantic High School was relocated to a more central location within Delray Beach, which created the opportunity to eliminate the bussing of most minority students outside of Delray.
- The popular “Paint-Up Delray” program was initiated to include more homes with volunteers from community groups, city departments, residents and local businesses.
- The Delray Beach Library was built on West Atlantic Avenue in 2006
- A new Downtown Design Guideline was implemented to set the standards for future developments.
- The Old School Square Parking Garage was constructed to better serve Delray Beach visitors.
- The Kids and Cops programs were expanded to include DARE in four elementary schools, fishing expeditions and other field trips, literacy in all elementary schools, annual baseball camp, Jaycees Scholarship program, annual Easter Egg Hunt and a much-expanded Toy Drive.
- The Education Advisory Board created a “School Showcase of the Arts” to help promote positive images of the schools.
- The School District developed and implemented a unified report card and began providing progress reports via Edline.
- Elected city officials and the Chamber of Commerce engaged the Tourist Development Board and the Palm Beach County Business Development Board to help market Delray Beach. The result included ongoing representation and attendance at county tourism meetings.
Just as Visions 2005 produced many ideas and implemented many programs for the development and success of Delray Beach, the most recent endeavor, Vision 2020: Future with History, is slated to create equally beneficial programs and results. Next month’s installment will cover the most recent Visions meeting, introducing some of the people behind the plan as well as what the plan entails.