Delray Beach has been our second home for decades. Kathy has been coming here for 68 years and Fred for 25. Kathy's family even built and owned two lots on the corner of Andrews Avenue and Thomas Street. Originally, all the lots had pocket neighborhoods. Today, the lot in the middle has 6 two car garages and no sense of human life facing the street. This is just one of many of unwelcome transformation that is happening in Delray as historic neighborhoods become infested with garages.

Returning to Brooklyn this past March

Over the last few years, we have been watching a garage invasion creep into our cherished neighborhoods and start taking over... And as we were preparing to move back to Brooklyn after our most recent visit a weeks ago, we came upon two new developments that made it clear we had to finally speak up about it and take action. What we saw was just devastating to us and we felt left us no choice but to challenge to the core what is happening to the Delray community we treasure.

We think this kind of development is the death knell of cities and neighborhoods everywhere. It's a devolution from when people had porches close to the road and connected with each other, to a present where those porches have been replaced by garage doors that shut off all contact between people and their community.

George Bush Boulevard Development

George Bush Boulevard between A1A and the Intracoastal is being transformed before our eyes into a corridor defined by garages, blank walls, and blank stoops. The language used to draw buyers to these new developments is despicable because it doesn't correspond at all to reality. Read the text below about the new Stamm Development going up on George Bush Boulevard, then look at the photos of what it actually looks like. In your opinion, does the description match the truth?

A brand new development on George Bush Boulevard

"Siréne Villas"

"Siréne Villas is a collection of six townhouses conceived as a haven of understated sophistication and discrete luxury. Taking a cue from the town’s thriving art scene, the architects drew inspiration from Cote d'Azur, a magical corner of southern France known as much for its eternally summery allure as for the long list of illustrious painters like Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso who made it their home. The six townhouses channel the soulful charm and artistic heritage of the French Riviera through a poised, pared down aesthetic of minimalist purity and sculptural rigour. Underpinned by a sense of openness and lightness, the interiors are a paradigm of understatement with a soothing color palette of white, cream and earthy tones complementing natural materials and exquisitely crafted details. Combined with all the amenities you’d expect in a luxury property, Siréne Villas are a serene retreat of timeless modernity and heightened refinement." - Siréne Villas

"Nature is a life-changing concept. Even in small doses, it affects the way we feel. It has the power to direct where we build, how we build, and the way we see the world around us. It produces places so beautiful we construct cities just to stay a little longer. The dream for Siréne Villas is to create an experience that is centered around nature. That’s why Siréne is the nature of a place." - Siréne Villas

This is false advertising at best and deceitful at worst. With all the flowery language in the promotion material, these developments make themselves sound like the best thing to grace the neighborhood – unique and beautiful, artistic one-of-a-kind creations anyone would be blessed to witness. In reality, they look like copies of all the other developments popping up throughout Delray in recent years.

Delray Beach earned the title "Village by the Sea" because it was a small city where charming, walkable neighborhoods created an atmosphere and identity where social and community life thrived. Some of the best neighborhood streets were calm places where people would walk their dogs in the morning and stroll in the evening after dinner. Now, we are losing that beloved village feel, the pride of all of us who have made a home in Delray Beach, because most new developments are generic boxes dominated by garage doors, creating whole streets where the village feeling and charm has been lost.

Many of Delray's historic neighborhoods are being invaded by garages which reinforce a car culture we do not want

The village by the sea is gradually losing its soul to the ultimate enemy, Car Culture, and to developers and transportation/mobility experts whose aim seems to be to package local charm and culture into a sales pitch for their agenda to sell more cars, expand streets, and reap the personal financial rewards thereof. These changes are not for the benefit of the community nor the people who cherish it.

There are all kind of garage doors to be found in Delray...brown and white, square and arched. Do different types of garage doors represent the "personal brand" of the architects? If this is the future of Delray, should there be a competition for the most exciting garage door designer..?

Delray's beloved, historic neighborhoods are being decimated by developers creating generic, charmless buildings, described by one resident as "upside down refrigerators," that do not fit the local context or character in any way. On certain blocks where once there were unique facades, porches, patios and gardens, all the buildings are now lined by enormous garages looming over the street.

We have never seen anything like that in all our travels around the is honestly shocking. Developers that have any sense of responsibility or respect for an established community and its ingrained values and culture would never do what is happening in many of Delray's historic neighborhoods. It violates what so many people hold dear.

History of Delray Housing

The progression of housing in Delray in the late 1800's from homes with vibrant porch life and picturesque communities (like those in Chautauqua in Western New York State) to today is startling because of how we have gravitated toward a car-driven culture of separation and isolation which is destroying our communities, our society, and many people think even our politics. We are watching this happen in real time in Florida's Delray Beach, our second home.

We need to reverse the car-driven changes happening here before it is too late – before we lose something precious that so many people love – and in doing so, we can show other communities going through the same transformation how to save the soul of their communities.

"There are more and more of us fighting for a different vision of the world— a world that takes care of our most precious resources: the air we breathe, the water we drink and the places we share." – Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris France

There is so much to like and so much to lose in Delray

Delray's charming, village-like neighborhoods are the main reason people choose to live or have second homes here. For us who have been coming here for decades, it is the top reason we love Delray Beach. Many others would agree. So it is very concerning that this is exactly what is at risk of being destroyed right now as Delray becomes more and more car-oriented.

Delray was founded on quaint, enjoyable neighborhoods that gave it the title of The Village by the Sea, and these neighborhoods are still the best parts of Delray Beach where community thrives. There is so much to love in Delray, from beautiful porches and patios, swings and gardens, and "pocket neighborhoods" that create smaller vibrant communities within the larger one.

"Of porches there are two sorts: the decorative and the useful, the porch that is only a platform and the porch you can lie around on in your pajamas and read the Sunday Paper" – Garrison Keillor

Porches are prevalent in most historic small towns across the country and are revered for their character and the sense of place they create.

Delray's Many Porches and Patios

Porches: Where People’s Lives Connect
“Of Porches there are two sorts: the decorative and the useful, the porch that is only a platform and the porch you can lie around on in your pajamas and read the Sunday Paper” – Garrison Keillor
Porch Life: Building Social Neighborhoods
As “in-between” spaces, porches create a soft edge that mediates between individual and community, public and private, and in these times, offer a safe way to maintain our social, mental and physical health.

Delray's many "pocket neighborhoods"

Pocket neighborhoods are clustered groups of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around a shared open space — a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley — all of which have a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship. They can be in urban, suburban or rural areas.

"Pocket Neighborhoods provide the basis for a sense of belonging and meaning...small-scale communities in a large scale world"

Ross Chapin's story and his book on Pocket Neighborhoods is something we really appreciate. His definition of a "Pocket Neighborhood" is a cohesive cluster of homes gathered around some kind of common ground within a larger surrounding neighborhood...a neighborhood within a larger neighborhood. Delray has many of them. When we showed this post to Ross Chapin, a long time good friend, he responded with, "It’s frustrating to see the rich fabric being replaced by banks of garage doors. It's criminal!"

The Invasion of the Garage Developers

Stamm Developers taking over Hacienda Gardens and eliminating the once lovely garden community

Going down the street, each new house is a mirror image of the last one. On one stretch, there are 20 buildings that all look the same

An image is worth 1,000 words. Here you see a story being told by this beautiful little house with a perfect patio, no garage, and a front yard with a book-giving gift for the community... all wedged between two of the numerous examples of generic, garage-dominated, modern architecture on the street.

With the entire neighborhood being mostly decimated, there are only a few homes that represent what the neighborhood formerly looked and felt like. What's left of it will be gone soon and Hacienda Gardens will have to change its name because it will no longer have any semblance of gardens at all...


In this video you can see local residents speaking boldly about what has been lost in the neighborhood.


Palm Way and Witherspoon - another Stamm development

Kathy's old neighborhood has becoming a rows of garages and is fast losing any character it once had

Kathy's family owned the top two lots on the upper left

Originally, all the lots in the neighborhood where Kathy's family built and owned two lots had pocket neighborhoods. Today, of the four buildings, three have only garages facing the street. Kathy's has porches, but recently they let the hedges grow, so this whole stretch of street is visually dominated by garages. Today this one block has a whopping 20 garages facing the street, and it's only a block to Atlantic Avenue.

Venetian and Casuarina – whole blocks are now without a sidewalk or any amenities

This neighborhood next to downtown is on the verge of being totally invaded by rows of garage doors.

These blocks are devoid of any character or interest, and yet they are the main streets for walking to the ocean and the downtown. Places for kids to play just don't exist, especially for those trapped in houses with no front yard or porch to hang out in.

People are increasingly absent on the garage-dominated blocks as the idea of walking in an increasingly car environment is less desirable. The few examples of Pocket Neighborhood development left are where people do walk and hang out, showing what people are drawn to.

Should we do a Hall of Shame in Delray Beach?

With so many neighborhoods being inundated with garage-first developments, we are thinking we need to re-institute a strategy that we have used in other communities...The Hall of Shame. It will list developers and designers who create entire streets and intersections visually dominated by garages, or where the entire ground floor of the development is garage space. There are advertisements for hundreds of lots where once historic houses have been replaced by garage-first developments. This garage infestation is unconscionable.

But it is not just the garages that are destroying beautiful neighborhoods; the same disdain for local character and charm is pronounced elsewhere, especially in new developments of soulless high-rise hotel chains which take away from Delray but don't add anything in return.

Are the developers and architects proud of these generic creations? Is Delray proud of having them in town? If the answer to either of those questions is no, why are so many of them being developed? We, as a community, need to set and define the standards by which we allow change to happen. Where do we draw the line? What do we cherish and what are our aspirations for our community? We should reward those that abide by these standards and add those that don't to the Hall of Shame.

Community life is sacred and needs to be preserved, and those that don't adhere to this edict must not be allowed to build in Delray Beach. Their work is so despicable that they should be called out on social media with the name of their company, both developers and designers and its principle owners clearly visible so everyone can see how their work erodes beloved communities.

Below are some of the developers and the architects engaged in this devastation: We know none of them and frankly did not want to research them. We have call it like we see it. Getting into the "politics and local power and political structures" would be a diversion from the outcome.


Preserving Existing Historic Neighborhoods

Developers who specialize in building overpriced, generic luxury houses with garages lining streets, replacing historic cottages and open clusters of community housing, are selling Delray's soul and not leaving any value behind.

There should be an immediate moratorium on activity that destroys value rather than maintaining or growing it. The city and the community as oversight should establish a goal and even zoning that does not permit garages with this kind of notable visual presence on any historic neighborhood street, or anywhere in Delray. We might even go so far as to suggest that these developers pay reparations for the damage they have done.

In addition, areas beyond the historic neighborhoods should be required to create porches or small plazas as part of any development in order to preserve what makes Delray Delray and to help it create a future that sets up possibilities for connecting with neighbors. In other words, we need a strategy that restores and protects the qualities that Delray grew its reputation around and that makes it a place worth visiting in the first place.

Resources and Benchmarks

Chautauqua: an American utopia

We were stunned by a visit last year to Chautauqua and its car-less streets. It gave us a renewed interest in exploring how small town/city life of the past, from the time before cars, could become a foundation for the future. In Delray, we need to look "back to the future" and bring into today lessons from our history.

Car-less streets throughout the community built starting in 1875.

Porches of all kinds that people lead their lives on.

Chautauqua: An American Utopia - Where Social Life Flourishes
Chautauqua.“There’s no place like it. No resort. No spa. It is at once a summer encampment and a small town, a college campus, an arts colony, a music festival, a religious retreat, and the village square. David McCullough

Actions...getting back on track

We are definitely on the wrong track and have been for too long, and it's not just Delray Beach where this is happening. The future is being destroyed by developers and car culture that is invading communities everywhere. The way forward is developing for people and community, not cars.

Creating the Streets and Sidewalks We Love - Shifting Our Focus From Cars to People
Paradigm-shattering change will happen when streets, sidewalks and intersections are transformed into community gathering spots through the simple act of giving human beings priority over motor vehicles.

Working to preserve Delray's village feel would benefit the community and its residents. We cannot let Car Culture come in and erode everything that we hold dear, replacing homes for people with homes for cars and uprooting neighborhoods defined by community spaces to plant neighborhoods characterized by garage doors. Let's bring back the qualities we treasure for the sake of our home and our future.

Building a Campaign to Restore "Village Life" in Delray Beach

We are working on a series of posts about Delray Beach and how we can work together to restore its village life. You can find the posts below.

A Placemaking Strategy for Creating “Village Life” in Delray Beach
Outlining a multi-part placemaking vision and community strategy for Delray Beach in Florida
How Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue Can Become the Best Main Street in Florida
Delray Beach in Florida, like many places, sits on the fence between a cherished village-like feel and a culture dominated by cars. Improving Main Street is key to its revitalization.
Killer Intersections vs. Shared Space: From Intersections that Divide to those that Connect
There is no bigger opportunity than creating an intersection that connects rather than divides. Connecting people to businesses and to each other helps everyone – social life, community, the local economy.

The question we have now is, how do we create a campaign that helps citizens become alerted to what is happening in their community and teaches them what they can do to stop it? Also, how can communities create a sense of place so developers can't (or find it hard to) come in and violate their local values? How can city government and local institutions both preserve local values as well as set up processes where communities can actively participate in building their future?

This could be an opportunity to restore what many feel we have lost by getting the local community involved in interesting ways. This could be something like a front yard competition for the entire community, or a project where a group of homes are chosen from a list of applicants to receive funds to have a "porch/plaza" added to their home. In Australia, a community had a competition to create the best yard and it was a lively and popular event. We need creative ideas for how to get community members more involved.

Social Life does not just take place on streets or public squares, it starts as soon as you step out of your front door. Porches are vital outdoor spaces that keep us connected to our neighborhood, inviting a hello or an impromptu visit. They provide eyes on the streets and on our kids, keeping people safe. "It takes a village" to raise healthy happy kids and communities and if we live our lives behind closed doors we will continue to lose the social connection that we need and crave. This is why we need to work to take care of Delray's cherished "village feel" and protect it from the car culture that is gradually destroying it.

The absence of opportunities for social connection and social life leads to social isolation and loneliness. The United States is currently experiencing an "epidemic of loneliness," largely because of development choices that prioritize cars over people. Social Life Project proposes five campaigns to restore social life in our communities, all of which can be implemented in Delray as well.

Addressing the Epidemic of Loneliness: Five Campaigns to Restore Social Life in Our Communities
We are in the middle of an epidemic of loneliness. These 5 campaigns to restore social life in our communities will get us out.

Below are some inspiring posts on how porches help bring social life back into our neighborhoods:

Porches: Where People’s Lives Connect
“Of Porches there are two sorts: the decorative and the useful, the porch that is only a platform and the porch you can lie around on in your pajamas and read the Sunday Paper” – Garrison Keillor
Porch Life: Building Social Neighborhoods
As “in-between” spaces, porches create a soft edge that mediates between individual and community, public and private, and in these times, offer a safe way to maintain our social, mental and physical health.

New England Porches

Porches - Social Life Project
“Of Porches there are two sorts: the decorative and the useful, the porch that is only a platform and the porch you can lie around on in your pajamas and read the Sunday Paper” – Garrison Keillor

Who We Are

The Place Man: Watch the New Documentary on the Placemaking Movement
We have recently created a documentary, The Place Man, about our work in placemaking over the last 50 years, made by the wonderful Guillermo Bernal. It got us thinking about the state of the placemaking movement and what’s next.

As a global organization, we are laser focused on building local and global campaigns that can help communities everywhere create their own future – one that is community led and transformative – as we try to push back on a car culture and developers that take but don't add to the existing character of the community they operate in. We are losing that charm and character that we so cherish at an accelerating rate. Restoring that needs to become a principal strategy for the future.

We live in Brooklyn where our two sons and their families live in walkable neighborhood, Cobble Hill, and in an even smaller community within a special community which is described as a "Pocket Neighborhood." Our entire family thinks that it is the most livable small community within a larger neighborhood which reflects values that Delray also once embraced.

The mission of the Social Life Project is to incite a renaissance of community connection in public spaces around the globe. Our work grows out of more than 50 years devoted to building the global placemaking movement. It is an initiative of the Placemaking Fund, along with PlacemakingX — a global network of leaders who together accelerate placemaking as a way to create healthy, inclusive, and beloved communities. Through our online publication, presentations, campaigns, and catalytic projects, we can create transformative impact on communities everywhere.

If you are interested in our helping to build a community-wide campaign or catalytic interventions, presentations, exhibits, and more or supporting the cause contact us.

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