Turbulent Times for Delray Beach Arts Garage
by Casey Westfall
The first two months of 2016 have been anything be pleasant for the Delray Beach Arts Garage.
The popular performing arts venue’s existence was threatened following their failure to accumulate the money needed to purchase the converted parking garage they currently operate out of.
Back in 2013, the Creative City Collaboration, the group that runs the Arts Garage, made an offer to purchase the space for $2.5 million after the city voted to sell it, following a bid for the building made by a law firm.
The Arts Garage was told to have the money by March 15, 2016, but during a city commission meeting in November 2014, things looked grim as the chairman of the Arts Garage’s board informed Mayor Cary Glickstein of the venue’s inability to come up with any money for the purchase.
In a statement on an online petition set up by the Arts Garage, they described the deadline as a “challenge” that “proved to be unobtainable.”
During a city commission meeting on Jan. 18, 2016, Delray Beach City Manager Don Cooper informed the commissioners that the Art Garage’s situation regarding the sale had seen little to no progress since the meeting in November 2014, and that they would most likely be unable to go through with it.
Officials from the Arts Garage requested for a 10 year extension to their current lease, in lieu of purchasing the building. During a meeting on Feb. 16, the Delray Beach City Commission entertained their request—with a few amendments of their own. The Arts Garage’s lease was changed to a month-to-month plan that will last five years at the most.
Following the decision, the Arts Garage gave this statement on their Facebook page:
“We want to express our sincere appreciation to all of our patrons who called, emailed, and spoke at City Hall on behalf of Arts Garage. We are grateful for your support! Your voices were heard! Our Board will be working with the City during the next few months to craft a new lease and expand upon our successful programming.”
They also encouraged their supporters to email both the mayor and city commissioners to thank them for supporting the organization.
But the lease was not the only issue plaguing the Arts Garage.
On Jan. 28, the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency’s board delivered a devastating blow to the non-profit performing arts center when they unanimously voted to suspend a payment of $68,750, citing careless and unprofessional business practices as reason for the suspension.
Furthermore, an independent audit performed on the Garage for fiscal year 2013-2014 found several deficiencies, including a bank overdraft exceeding $70,000, and a lack of documentation for purchases made by the Garage via credit card.
However, in the Garage’s online petition, they stated that they had undergone a clean audit, but despite this, the Community Redevelopment Agency was “withholding $137,500 of programming funds despite [the] clean audit.”
But on Feb. 19, the Community Redevelopment Agency held a special meeting where the Arts Garage’s financial records were reviewed, and they agreed to disburse the suspended $68,750 payment to the Arts Garage, despite still having reservations about their business practices.
As their fifth-anniversary approaches, the Arts Garage and their patrons can catch their breath knowing that the venue will be open for the celebration, and can hope that a permanent solution to prevent issues like the ones experienced during the first two months of 2016 will be unveiled soon.