Wilton Manors identified 23 businesses at risk of direct displacement from redevelopment at their latest city commission meeting June 28. The city is adopting a five-point plan to help the businesses stay in Wilton Manors.
Kim Allonce, the economic development manager of Wilton Manors, created and presented an in-house study of Wilton Manors’ small businesses and how to keep them from getting displaced. The study, candidly called “Stay in Wilton,” focused on businesses impacted by direct displacement — “forced to vacate due to eminent domain, building sale, redevelopment or rezoning.”
Allonce identified three at-risk businesses on The Ave, four at-risk businesses on The Drive, and 16 at-risk businesses in East Village. Some highlighted at-risk businesses outlined in her presentation included Lotus Chinese Kitchen, Holy Mackerel, Joshua Tree and Mavericks Barbershop.
The five-point plan outlines partnering with local organizations to help businesses relocate, establishing a Relocation Assistance Grant to help with costs, asking landlords to sign a Commercial Tenant Protection Pledge, waiving select requirements for relocated businesses and asking landlords to offer “Right of First Refusal” to returning businesses.
City Commissioner Michael Bracchi brought up the possibility of supporting the at-risk businesses financially during their move. Commissioners Gary Resnick and Chris Caputo voiced agreement.
“Moving a business, even if it’s a near area, is disruptive,” Resnick said. “Some of these [businesses] have supported the city for 20, 30 years and I think we should do the same thing.”
The commissioner suggested creating an aid fund from developer money to help the businesses.
“I know for a fact that at least one of these on this list is losing their retirement plan if they are unable to move to a place where they can keep their customers,” he said.
Mayor Scott Newton said that businesspeople should “look out for rainy days” and save from the beginning rather than depend on selling their business for retirement funds. He spoke against using taxpayer dollars for aiding businesses.
“I’m going to be a little harsh here, and I think I can because I’ve been a business owner for a long, long time,” Newton said. “I never asked for a city to help me, because I put money away.”
Newton also noted that many businesses in the East Village area should “know it may not be a permanent place” since the owner expressed that he would like to redevelop it one day.
Caputo offered the idea of using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to give aid to the displaced businesses. The ARPA funds come from the federal government and can only be used to help small businesses. Caputo described the funds as a “use or lose it” situation.
The city commission has not decided whether they will provide aid to displaced businesses and if so how.
An issue also brought up about the displacement was the shortage of commercial space in Wilton Manors. Allonce noted that certain businesses were interested in retiring rather than moving if displaced.