Saturday, February 23, 2008

Another neat find...

Check this surfing site out. It will take you to live webcam at the Lake Worth Beach. Something handy for surfers, but useful for others too.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thanks Dan (and Erica) for Trying "Call Me!"

I hope you don't mind, but I posted your message here - to see if it worked. And it lets others see what the player looks like and how it works.

See you later!

Cool New Feature Added!

This blog has been selected as part of a "beta" test for a new service. This allows viewers of the blog to call in questions, leave messages and then I can get back to you. All you need to do is click on the button that says, "Call Me!" on the right hand side of the page. You plug in your name (you can use your real name or not - your choice) and then put in your phone number. (If you would like your phone number to remain private, make sure that you click on the box in the lower left hand corner.) The service will call you at the phone number you leave. You'll hear my greeting and then you may leave a message.

I can then call you back and we can chat one-on-one, if you would like. Or, if you have a question that may interest others, I can answer it on the blog. There is also the ability to post the voice-mail that you leave as a player application in the blog so that others can hear it. Let me know if you want me to do that, otherwise it will remain private.

It's worth trying out. So - Call Me!

And later on 3/7...

Seminar on Economic Development - 3/7

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hope to See You There!


Lake Worth's Premier Event
14th Annual Street Painting Festival
February 23rd and 24th, 2008
Sat. and Sun. 10:00am - 6:00pm
Downtown Lake Worth

Signs of Hope?

Check out this link to properties that have sold within the past 90 days in the city of Lake Worth zip code 33460. Are we seeing an up-tick in residential property sales?

NEW Press Release Service

Those enterprising folks over at Lake Worth Talk have done it again! If you click here, your browser will take you to the UTalkNews page that has summaries of press releases issued by local governments in South Florida. It's interesting to check out what is being sent to media outlets on a regular basis. You get a sense of what they choose to print and report on, and what they don't. It also is a good example of how other municipalities routinely issue press releases to keep the public informed on how they are impacting residents' lives and livelihoods.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Delay in Beach Improvement Results in Many Missed Opportunities

The above is a cover to a report prepared by Dr. William B. Stronge, Professor at Florida Atlantic University on Lake Worth beach use and its economic impact. He surveyed and interviewed 485 persons over a period of time from February 15 through March 21, 2002. If you recall, tourism was down during that year in the wake of the 9/11 tragedies months before. The City commissioned this study in advance of the beach bond referendum that failed that same year.

Even so, the Lake Worth beach remained a popular location for locals and tourists alike. Dr. Stronge's report reveals the strong "pull" the beach has on people due to it's central location and convenient access. The following are some of the study's more important findings.

Through his interviews, Dr. Stronge was able to extrapolate the number of visitors to the beach from the season beginning November 2001 through April of 2002. He broke those that he interviewed into groups based upon their primary destination. The biggest revelation is that a total of 414,433 probably visited our beach during that time. Granted, many would be visiting the beach multiple times - especially if you happened to live in Palm Beach County. Still, think of the number of "impressions" that is creating each time someone goes to our beach. Think about the quality of those impressions when they see facilities that look like this:

Imagine then that you assume conservatively that each season the beach is host to 400,000 people over that 6 month period of time. Since this study was completed, over 2 million impressions have been created. What do those impressions say about the City of Lake Worth? What does it say about how we choose to present ourselves to residents and guests? Add to that the constant undercurrent of political back-and-forths and one begins to understand the deservedly negative image those that experience the beach have of the city. The Lake Worth "brand" suffers.

Also, look at the importance of the pier in reasons for a visit to the beach - almost 18% went there just for that experience. I am pleased to report that work is being done on the pier as evidenced by this recent picture. This is one project that is moving in the right direction.

There are other revelations from the report. The following table shows the specific activity that beach users identified as their primary reason for being there:

Notice that the percentage of visitors identified "Sunning/Swimming" just slightly more as the primary purpose for being there as those that indicated "Eating Out/Shopping" (43.1% and 41.0%, respectively). This probably reflects the popularity of John G's as destination. However, there are other retailers there that do fairly well and add to the total. The point here is that this has always been more than just a recreational property, more than just a park. Isn't that what the land use plan and rezoning of the property are made to reflect? The answer to that question is "yes"!

Now, here are more interesting observations from the study:

Apparently, people do not usually go alone when they visit the beach. They tend to load up the car with friends and family or caravan. And, those that use the Casino building and the beachfront (not the sandy beach or the pier), bring the most people with them. Also, look at the average length of stay. Spending almost three and a half hours at the beach makes sense - but the other attractions also have long visits. Having a variety of options available for people might increase the length of their stay.

The next table shows the beach's strong showing among out-of state tourists:

Over 55 percent of people going to the beach during the season are out-of-state tourists. That is new money being brought into our city. With our beach facilities in a state of limbo and with the condition they are in, this translates into a significant loss of economic opportunity. It also hurts in terms of the visitor's opinion of whether or not they had a good time, perceived the beach as a safe place to be and whether or not they have an impression of the property being well maintained. Thus, these impressions can carry a stubborn legacy that will be harder and harder to extinguish the longer and longer any progress at the beach is stalled.

To stand in the way of progress here at the beach steepens the downward trajectory of the rest of the city. Those that are suing the city over technicalities in the ground lease and the development agreement are to blame. Even with the language they find objectionable being changed to make their lawsuit moot, they continue their efforts. Their next hearing is on the 26th of this month. Likewise the We Love Lake Worth (ironic, no?) lawsuit regarding the referendum on the land use and zoning at the beach is yet another obstacle. Their actions collectively affect the entire city in the perpetuation of blighted conditions on what should be our premier attraction. In these troubled economic times, that impact is worse.

This detrimental economic impact and the missed opportunities that represents are revealed in other aspects of the study.

The following table looks at the age of visitor in relation to the age distribution of all of Palm Beach County:
Dr. Stronge indicates in the report's narrative that the survey was taken primarily when many young people would be in school. This may explain the drastically small number of people under 25 as a proportion of the total visitors and in relation to the age distribution of Palm Beach County. However, this does reflect the fact that we are an aging population as a nation. The baby boomers are moving into retirement age and one must ask the question: As you age, are you more or less likely to go to the beach for purely recreational purposes? I would argue that you would be less likely to spend time on the sandy beach and more likely to be there for other attractions. This is another strategic reason to go forward with the beach redevelopment project before us now. It would offer a range of quality "destinations" that are not present at the beach now, or only barely meeting their ultimate potential. And, in these challenging governmental budget times, the City is relieved from maintaining the beach property under the development agreement and the ground lease.

Dr. Stronge's report also focused on the characteristics of the "non-resident" visitor to the beach. The table below shows a portion of his findings:

The primary purpose is vacation/sightseeing, followed closely by "Other" (?) and visiting friends and relatives. The following table is most surprising - of all the non-residents who visit the municipal beach, more than 54% would not come to Lake Worth if there wasn't a beach!

So, get this. That means that Lake Worth would not even be on the map as a destination for 135,115 people if we didn't have our beach. This is a testament to the economic engine that the beach was in the historical development of the city and signals the potential that it still holds. I think that we can safely assume that given the deplorable condition of the facilities there and the fact that the pier is out of service (and has been for two plus years), that many people treat Lake Worth as not having a beach. They make the choice not to go there at all now. This represents a significant economic impact, as indicated on the next tables.

First of all, note that the low amount spent on lodging means a couple of things. It means not everyone spends the night in Lake Worth hotels and that many stay with friends or relatives. This brings down the average. But look at the economic impact! Most people visiting here spend at least a day and half and spend $185.60 per party. That amounts to over $14 million being spent in the City of Lake Worth each season! If half of those people choose not to visit the beach, then the economic impact is half what it would have been. Multiply $7 million times the months and years of delay (say 6 years) and that is an negative impact of $42 million that isn't circulating in our city's economy! Can we start a dollars per day clock on that, please?

Finally, look at the economic impact visitors have on places elsewhere in Palm Beach County.

This is a big reason the County invested their $5 million into the redevelopment of our beach project.

Conservatively speaking, I think that our beach is running less than 50% of it's potential positive quality of life and economic contribution to the city. In many ways, it is detracting from it. The longer it continues in its current physical conditions, the longer it will be before the potential is reached. In the process, our community will miss many positive opportunities to further its strategic position as one of the oldest coastal municipalities in Palm Beach County.