The best decision for the Delray Beach City Commission tonight on the Arts Garage is no decision.
Technically, the issue before the commission is the sale of 10,000 square feet of city-owned retail space. It’s on the first floor of the Old School Square parking garage, and is now leased to the Arts Garage, the non-profit that bills itself as “a multi-disciplinary cultural hub for visual artists, musicians, performers, film presenters and arts educators.”
To its supporters, the Arts Garage fits perfectly with the funky theme of the surrounding Pineapple Grove neighborhood just north of Atlantic Avenue. The personal injury law firm of Kanner & Pintaluga, however, is nearby and has expressed interest in expanding to the Arts Garage site. Unlike the non-profit, the firm would pay taxes.
Four options are before the commission: Sell the entire space to the law firm for $2.5 million, sell part of the space to the firm for $1 million, sell the entire space to a development company for $2.5 million or entertain an offer from the Arts Garage to buy the entire space for $2.5 million.
We agree with Delray Beach Mayor — and developer — Carey Glickstein, who said in an interview that there is “no great sense of urgency to sell” and that “this shouldn’t be a real estate play.” Given the real estate market and the opening of the nearby Hyatt hotel, the space likely will increase in value. There also is not enough certainty for a final decision.
The Arts Garage receives an operating subsidy from the city’s community redevelopment agency. There is a debate about whether such subsidies are legal. Mayor Glickstein believes that cultural offerings enhance economic development, which is the CRA’s legal mission, but the issue is not settled.
This month, state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, asked for a legislative audit of the Delray Beach CRA’s spending. The request for that audit came from Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington. Sen. Abruzzo works for the Boca Raton law firm of Weiss, Handler & Cornwell, which had been helping Kanner & Pintaluga. That help would call into question the motivation for the audit. Weiss & Handler apparently now has withdrawn from that role.
As for the offer from developer Schmier & Feurring, principal Bob Schmier is an Arts Garage board member and said he would keep the non-profit as a tenant. If Arts Garage ever faltered, of course, the firm could sell the space itself. As for the fourth option, the Arts Garage has presented no payment plan.
The city’s legal staff made no recommendation. Tonight should feature lots of talk but no action.
for The Post Editorial Board