Stranded at Flagler Shore? Readers react

Flagler Shore in West Palm Beach

 

Flagler Shore in West Palm Beach is a neat idea — for the fairgrounds, said retired businessman Robert Garvy. “At least they have public restrooms there,” Garvy said.

Garvey is one of a number of business leaders and residents who were sympathetic to the frustration expressed by Dennis Hammond of Sandpointe Asset Management, with offices in the Phillips Point office complex on Flagler Drive.

Recently, Hammond told the Palm Beach Post and city leaders he was dismayed by the city’s Flagler Shore project, which involve shutting down a portion of the eastern lanes of Flagler Drive to make way for chairs, bicyclists, street jugglers and graffiti-laden shipping containers.

City officials say they’re trying to broaden the waterfront’s appeal by making it a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly place. The partial road shutdown runs through March 1.

Hammond says the effort is “goofy” and anti-business.

Flagler Drive is an important north-south thoroughfare, Hammond said. He noted the area already has plenty of places to enjoy the waterfront, without necessitating the transformation of a four-lane road into a two-lane one so that people can partake in “pavement lunches on Flagler.”

Garvy, the retired chairman of money management firm, Intech, agreed wholeheartedly.

And bluntly.

“How low can our city leaders take this town? The Flagler waterfront is beautiful as it is,” Garvy wrote Hammond in an email, copied to the Palm Beach Post. ” It’s amazing what lack of vision these people have.”

Garvy is an influential business leader who kicked off the leasing of the CityPlace Tower office building when he moved Intech to the tower’s penthouse, from a location in Palm Beach Gardens.

Robert Garvy, formerly chairman of Intech in West Palm Beach

In an interview, Garvy said he’s making another investment in the city. He bought a unit in The Bristol, the West Palm Beach luxury condominium under construction at 1100 S. Flagler Dr. Garvey plans to move there from a single-family home on Palm Beach.

Now he’s wondering what will happen if the city’s vision of street merchants, roller-bladers and street artists remains a permanent fixture along the waterfront, an area he had contemplated strolling at night.

“The people I’ve talked to recently are appalled, just appalled, not only by the action but by the process that was followed here,” Garvy said, citing the minimal notice to the community.

He’s not alone in being bewildered by the whole venture.

“I can’t help but wonder who would create such an unsightly mess,” Michael Andersen, who works at Phillips Point, wrote in an email to city officials. “The experiment turned this stretch of road into an obstacle course of confused drivers and no new pedestrians.”

In a recent interview, West Palm Beach economic development director Christopher Roog said Flagler Shore isn’t anti-business. In fact, the business community benefits from the public space and recreational features there, Roog said.

“The waterfront is a very important place for (our residents),” Roog said, “so what can we do to make it better for everyone?”

A number of people have expressed their support for the experiment, on a Facebook page called Engage West Palm Beach.

“We drive on Flagler all the time and think it’s great!!” wrote Chris Costello Haerting.

“Flagler Shore is all about trying to better the city of West Palm Beach,” wrote Joseph Russo. “Once (in) awhile, our elected officials take a stand in defense of the new. But before many of these groundbreaking new ideas can take root and flourish, they are often knocked down for fear of change, detriment, or blight…..(While) we might not all agree on the means, we should unite behind the vision at least.”

Garvy hopes any further consideration to extending Flagler Shore will involve the residents and businesses.

The city’s website said it encourages public feedback on the new design and new activities via email at  flaglershore@wpb.org.

Votes on adult living, day care west of Boca Raton delayed

Residents west of Boca Raton will have to wait a little longer to find out if a senior living center and a day care will be built near their homes.

A proposal by St. Louis-based Allegro Senior Living and property owner Alan D. Simon to build on Clint Moore Road has been delayed.

The project’s planners requested a postponement of a planning hearing and a vote by the Palm Beach County commission. The meetings were set to take place this month, but now a planning meeting won’t be held until Dec. 8 and a county commission meeting won’t take place until Jan. 31.

Planners said the delay “will allow the applicant to continue to work with the neighbors.”

The projects are proposed for a 13-acre parcel in the Agriculture Reserve, on the north side of Clint Moore Road just west of Florida’s Turnpike.

The Ag Reserve is  a 22,000-acre farming and conservation zone west of Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. Building in the reserve has been limited by strict county rules, but the reserve has been under increasing development pressure.

Allegro wants to build a 151-unit, 223-bed rental adult living facility that will feature independent and assisted living, plus memory care. Allegro operates facilities in Boynton Beach and Jupiter.

Adjacent to the 175,000-square-foot development, a daycare for 240 children also is proposed. Simon is chief executive of Alternative Educational Systems, which owns the Randazzo School in Coconut Creek.

Some residents who live near the property fear the projects will add to traffic and noise in the area. They’ve organized a group, www.clintmoorewest.com, to oppose the project.

Palm Beach County’s housing affordability lowest in a decade

(Getty Images)

Palm Beach County housing affordability fell to its lowest level in nearly a decade, the National Association of Home Builders said Thursday.

Just 56.9 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of April and end of June were affordable to families earning Palm Beach County’s median income of $67,900. That’s down from the 60.4 percent of homes sold that were affordable to median-income earners in the first quarter.

Rising prices were the biggest driver of falling affordability. Palm Beach County’s median home price was $250,000 in the second quarter, up from $222,000 in the first quarter.

Palm Beach County’s affordability index hasn’t been below 57 percent since 2008.

Alfred Angelo employee: You violated our rights, owe us 60 days pay

Defunct dress chain Alfred Angelo violated workers rights when it abruptly shut down in July, according to a lawsuit filed by a former employee.

In a suit filed Wednesday, former Alfred Angelo employee Deborah Hightower said she was one of 248 employees whose rights under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act were violated.

RELATED: Thousands of dresses to be auctioned in September

Alfred Angelo “violated the WARN Act by failing to give the plaintiff and other similarly
situated employees of the Defendant at least 60 days’ advance written notice of termination, as required by the WARN Act,” Hightower’s suit said. “As a consequence, the plaintiff and other similarly situated employees of the defendant are entitled under the WARN Act to recover from the defendant their wages and [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] benefits for 60 days, none of which has been paid.”

Hightower worked at Alfred Angelo’s facility at 1625 S. Congress Ave. in Delray Beach until July 13, the suit said. Alfred Angelo filed for Chapter 7 on July 14.

The suit, filed as part of the bankruptcy proceeding, seeks class action status. Hightower alleges that he and other employees are owed pay and benefits for 60 days.

Thousands of dresses from Alfred Angelo’s inventory to be auctioned next month

Looking for a deal on a wedding gown? Thousands of dresses from the inventory of failed bridal chain Alfred Angelo could be auctioned next month.

The bankruptcy trustee assigned to the case has proposed an auction for Sept. 2 in Deerfield Beach. If the judge approves, the sale would be run by auctioneer Stan Crooks, president of Auction America in West Palm Beach.

NEW: Former employee of Alfred Angelo says company violated 248 workers’ rights with abrupt layoff 

Crooks said Alfred Angelo’s inventory includes 5,000 to 10,000 wedding party gowns, plus supplies such as warehouse racks, commercial sewing machines and a pallet jack.

Crooks said he plans to bring a mirror, just in case any brides-to-be want to try on dresses.

The auctioneer will add a 10 percent buyer’s premium to each final bid price, according to court documents. Auction America also will get “reasonable and documented expenses” up to $18,000.

Delray Beach-based Alfred Angelo, a bridal chain with stores throughout the nation, abruptly ceased operations in July.

Publix: Where hefty profit margins are a pleasure

Jeff Ostrowski/The Palm Beach Post

Over the past two decades, Publix consolidated its dominant position in Florida’s grocery market. As Publix has vanquished Winn-Dixie, its profit margins have climbed steadily.

In 2003, when Winn-Dixie was still a viable rival, Publix’s profit margin was 3.9 percent. As Winn-Dixie withered, Publix’s profit margins climbed steadily, reaching 6.1 percent in 2015.

That would be considered a weak profit margin in the software industry, but in the notoriously low-margin supermarket business, 6 percent is quite high. By contrast, grocery giant Kroger routinely posts profit margins of less than 2 percent.

The obvious question: Are Florida consumers getting the best deal without two dominant supermarkets doing battle? Publix ranks high in customer satisfaction, but a little rivalry never hurts, said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“Nothing keeps the prices as sharp, nothing keeps the stores as clean, as competition,” Gordon said.

While Publix faces increasing competition from Walmart and specialty grocers like Whole Foods, Costco, Trader Joe’s and Aldi, Publix has benefited from the disappearance of Albertsons and the demise of Winn-Dixie.

Want a seasonal job at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club? Fire up the fax — but the number doesn’t seem to work

Donald Trump on Super Tuesday. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE: One day after The Palm Beach Post reported that a fax number listed in a classified ad to apply for a job at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club was not working, the number now is operational. A reporter who dialed the number on Tuesday was greeted by the familiar whistles of a fax machine.

EARLIER STORY: Interested in a low-wage job at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club? You’ll need to fire up your fax machine to apply, although the fax number listed in Trump’s ads doesn’t seem to be accepting faxed resumes.

Mar-a-Lago published three help-wanted ads in the Palm Beach Post on July 27. They detailed qualifications for cooks, servers and housekeepers and instructed applicants to “Apply by fax to 561-832-2194.” No phone number or email address is listed, although job seekers can visit the CareerSource office on Belvedere Road.

Alas, the fax number listed in Trump’s recent help-wanted ads doesn’t ring to a fax line. Three times on Monday, the line answered with a recorded voice saying, “I’m sorry, no one is available to take your call. Thank you for calling. Goodbye.”

Trump has raised eyebrows with the apparent disconnect between his anti-immigration rhetoric and his routine hiring of foreign workers at his club. Trump has told his Labor Department that he hopes to hire 76 foreign workers for at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter for the 2017-18 tourist season.

The Washington Post noticed the ads and reported that they seem to be part of “a ritualized failure” to find American workers for seasonal jobs.

The ads are four 35-hour-a-week positions. Mar-a-Lago offers workers housing for $50 to $75 a week, the ads say.


Office Depot starts same-day delivery service

In a bid to shore up its eroding sales, Office Depot said Monday that it’s testing same-day delivery in three markets.

“With our new same-day delivery and our omnichannel approach, we are utilizing our retail stores as assets and part of our supply chain to give our customers the best possible experience,” Office Depot Chief Executive Gerry Smith said in a statement.

Customers who shop on officedepot.com can choose scheduled same-day delivery. The service is available in South Florida, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Office Depot says it will waive delivery fees as it tests the service.

Staples, Office Depot’s larger rival, began same-day delivery more than a year ago. Both retailers have been hurt by the rise of Amazon and by declining demand for pens, papers and printer cartridges.

Office Depot’s sales fell from $12.7 billion on 2014 to $11 billion in 2016, and the Boca Raton-based retailer has been closing stores and distribution centers.

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Whither Winn-Dixie? Publix asserts total domination of Palm Beach County grocery market

Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post

Palm Beach County residents of a certain age recall when going to the grocery store meant choosing between Publix and Winn-Dixie.

These days, there’s not much of a choice. Publix has so thoroughly vanquished Winn-Dixie that the Lakeland-based grocer has seven times as many locations as Winn-Dixie. And Publix has more Palm Beach County locations than all other grocers combined.

RELATED: Publix: Where shopping for real estate is a pleasure

That’s according to research by Josh Ladle, a broker at commercial real estate firm Avison Young. He says he visited every one of the 130 grocery-anchored shopping centers in Palm Beach County to compile a comprehensive list of supemarkets in the county. The results:

  • Publix leads the way with 75 stores in Palm Beach County.
  • Winn-Dixie has just 11 stores.
  • Walmart Neighborhood Market has 8 supermarkets (more, of course, if you include the grocery sections in Walmart’s full-size stores).

No other grocery chain has more than six locations. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have four each, while Aldi has six.

Winn-Dixie rode a string of lackluster customer service and financial woes into near-oblivion.

“The quality was just so much better at Publix that they took all the market,” Ladle said.

Now, Publix is pinching out rivals by opening new stores wherever it can. The result, Ladle said, is that the prime locations for supermarkets are taken.

Ladle also tracked vacancies at grocery-anchored centers and found 8.4 percent vacancies at Publix plazas, compared to 16.8 percent at Winn-Dixie properties. However, he said, the numbers were skewed because a number of the Winn-Dixie centers are being redeveloped.

Publix operated 1,136 stores as of the end of 2016.

Retail disconnect continues: Stores closing, but vacancies fall

Sports Authority is gone, Sears is going and merchants everywhere are terrified by Amazon’s next move. And yet: Palm Beach County’s retail vacancy rate keeps inching lower.

Palm Beach County retail space was 89.4 percent full as of mid-2017, up from 89.1 percent in mid-2016, according to commercial real estate brokerage Avison Young.

In one of the great disconnects of the post-Amazon economy, retailers are being decimated but retail landlords are performing well. Despite store closings by Sports Authority, Macy’s and JCPenney, other retailers keeping jumping in to fill space vacated by failing merchants.