By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Robinson is one of more than 40 businesses the CRA has attracted to Northwood in five years — about 30 are still open or scheduled to open soon. On alternate Friday nights, the shops on Northwood Road stay open late and pedestrians stroll past a sidewalk fire-eater. Vendors haggle gently over the price of silver jewelry.
Scott Curry, who has since given up his interior design business on 24th Street, now leases space in his building temporarily to the Center for Creative Education. He credits Briesemeister with giving the neighborhood real direction. "She has literally changed the face of Northwood. It's a 180-degree spinaround. On weekends, people flock down here. Public sentiment has gone from a level of one or two to a nine or ten since she came on."
But the two parcels Northwood Renaissance assembled so painstakingly over four years sit empty. The hotly contested "anchor site" is a vacant lot used for overflow parking during events. A sign advises passersby to contact the CRA for development opportunities. Because of the economy, the city has put off publishing a formal request for proposals. The peeling paint on Alfie's Restaurant Equipment is just as it was in 2002, when Flick took his historic tour, and prostitutes still stalk along Broadway after sunset. Barbed wire and no-trespassing signs ring vacant lots. Wildflowers poke between cracks in the asphalt.
Ask locals about Northwood Renaissance and some express surprise that the group's offices are still open. One or two others carry on the feud with Flick or anonymous posters on internet forums. Northwood Renaissance Executive Director Murray has turned her attention to building affordable housing in the Westgate community of West Palm. Flick, still president of the board, helps shepherd the organization through sales of affordable homes west of Broadway. The nonprofit has expanded its mission and dropped Northwood from its name: It's now Neighborhood Renaissance.
A sign on the Village Center site shows a cheerful Mediterranean-style building with striped awnings, rendered in pastels against a blue sky, offering units for sale at $120,000. There are few takers.
In September, the nonprofit's sluggish lawsuit against the city saw new developments. The mayor briefly entered negotiations with Neighborhood Renaissance, HUD, and the county for the city to take over Village Center and complete it as planned. In exchange, Neighborhood Renaissance would have agreed to drop its lawsuit. But those negotiations too have stalled.
Flick notes the irony. "If the city were to take over and build Village Center," he says, "it would perfectly accord with our mission."
For now, though, it appears that in this decade-long development game, nobody wins.