By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – On Tuesday, June 9th, the City of Delray Beach Commission held a Workshop, and decided to go forward with a plan to help Atlantic Avenue businesses by using a valet pilot program to help move vehicle traffic through the congested downtown better.
The week before, during the Regular Commission Meeting, it was decided with input from the Reopen Task Force to not close Atlantic Avenue to vehicles during certain times due to the complexity of managing and to not reduce the current curb-side pickup business that has helped restaurants survive during the coronavirus closures.
The Reopen Task Force recommended that instead, a valet pilot program for 2-3 months changing the locations of the valet stands, and charging a flat fee regardless of where the driver intends to go. Laura Simon, Executive Director, of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) since 2015, explained.
“The pilot program will run for 60-90 days and is the changing of the location of two ques from NE 2nd Ave and SE 2nd Ave into one location on E. Atlantic Ave between 1st and 2nd Ave,” Simon said.
“The validation program will be eliminated and charge a flat $10 service fee to ANYONE using the service. The revised price schedule on top of moving the queue will make the valet ‘Downtown Delray Centric’ and will serve ALL of the downtown merchants equally.”
Simon explained that Delray Beach’s downtown is currently still in a reopening phase and has seen several businesses not renew their leases, which some were based on timing and some based on closures due to the pandemic.
However she said, “The vacancy rate is still very low considering the situation. We are at a seven percent vacancy rate which is where we normally hover.”
To help businesses in downtown, the DDA announced last week they have designated $30,000 in grants to assist small storefront businesses within the district that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In terms of the decision not to close Atlantic Avenue to vehicles, last week, Stephanie Immelman, Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce president, explained that both Laura Simon’s and her discussions with business owners were similar, about 60/40 for the Chamber and 70/30 for DDA against closing the avenue.