Officials promise $11/hour jobs, training program for Marina project

RIVIERA BEACH — Riviera Beach officials are promising $11 an hour pay and a training program that will equip residents to benefit from a $375 million redevelopment of the city-owned marina.

The assurances came during a Marina Development Accountability Summit hosted Monday by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and sponsored by the advocacy group, the Commission on Social Justice.

With the redevelopment a near certainty following a referendum, a court ruling and a champagne launch, attention has turned to what benefits the city will receive from a partnership with Viking Developers, which is putting up all but $39 million for the 10-year project.

Several hundred people showed up at the Fayson Mitchell Multi-Purpose Christian Center at Hurst Chapel AME for the summit, many saying they want to make sure residents and local businesses are not cut out of the thousands of jobs and business opportunities being promised from the marina makeover.

City officials and the CRA say 1,500 construction jobs and some 2,000 permanent jobs will available as the project gets underway. The first phase will be completed next year but the entire project will be spread over about 10 years. The CRA formally launched the project April 10 and officials say bulldozing will start next month.

“We’re here to see how the CRA plans to expand our marina, to assure that your voices and concerns are heard,” said the Rev. Tony Drayton, co-chairman of the Commission on Social Justice, and pastor of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Riviera Beach.

“We applaud the CRA for its inclusiveness,” added Michael Sloser, president of the Community Officers Association of Singer Island, a mostly white community on the east side of predominantly black Riviera Beach.

Social Justice was created in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at Newcomb Hall in 2012 that left two dead and six wounded. Newcomb Hall, which is included in the marina redevelopment plan, will be renamed the Events Center, a 300-seat hall that will be available for weddings, other social events, community meetings and gatherings. It will also have a restaurant and rooftop café overlooking the waterfront and is slated to open next year as part of Phase One of the development project.

“It’s a great day in Riviera Beach,” said Palm Beach County Mayor Priscilla Taylor. “As we move forward, I get chills because it’s taken so long. This will be an economic generator for Riviera Beach. It’s a great thing and I applaud what you’re doing.”

Scott Evans, director of Planning and Construction for the CRA, said in addition to expansion of the marina itself, there will also be residential development, retail shops and restaurants, all spread out to the Broadway Corridor, thereby impacting an even larger area than the marina district.

Evans confirmed previous reports that the public investment in the project will be $39 million, with private investment being $336 million. The city can expect an increase of more than $4 million in revenue as a result of the project.

City officials have previously said the city operates the marina at an annual loss of $3 million.

“We don’t want to just stand up here and make a lot of promises,” Evans said. “We’ll track job accountability monthly.”

The CRA plans to track how many residents get jobs, as well as local small business and minority participation – involving companies which are at least 51 percent owned by a minority. Officials will also track the number of residents who rent the Events Center.

The CRA will report all the findings from the tracking. Evans said all jobs associated with the project will pay at least $11 an hour.

Tony Brown, director of the CRA, assembled a panel of business and economics experts with whom he will be partnering over the duration of the project. They included panelists at the meeting: Patrick Franklin,

president/CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County; John H. Howard, president of the Black Business Investment Corporation; Lia Gaines, executive director of the Center for Enterprise Opportunity; Michelle Dryer, director of Community Partnerships for Career Source Palm Beach County (formerly Workforce Alliance); and Seabron Smith, executive director of the Center for Technology, Enterprise and Development Inc.

The panelists answered questions from the audience and offered their respective companies as business resources.

“We’re here to make sure that the people who need jobs get the training,” Franklin said. “Our people right now are not prepared to be a crew member on a yacht. We need to make sure they are prepared.”

“I think there needs to be ongoing training when it comes to a project like this,” Gaines added.

There were also critics at the meeting. The attendees included Bessie Brown and Maria Cole were not impressed with what they heard.

Brown is president and Cole is parliamentarian of the Citizens Task Force which has vehemently opposed private, sector involvement in the marina redevelopment. Members of this group recently told South Florida Times they are still examining their options after losing a referendum and a court fight.

“This training should have started 10 years ago. The marine Industry has been here a very long time,” Cole said. “A lot of this I’ve heard before. ‘Hope’ is not a plan. I’ve heard a lot of ‘hopefullys’ today,” she said. “If we’d started the training for this a long time ago, we wouldn’t be here simply ‘hoping’ today.”

Posted in In The News.