Delray neighborhood leader disappointed in hotel agreement on jobs

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Bob Wells of Delray Beach is unemployed, so he collects cans for money.

"Some people tease me. Others don't," said Wells. "But I know I'm doing something honest, so it doesn't bother me."

Until three years ago, Wells was a full-time construction worker. Now he depends on cans, Social Security, and a few fix-it jobs a month.

"It's rough. But I'm surviving," he said.

Palm Beach County's unemployment rate sits at 8.8 percent, its best level since 2008. But Chuck Ridley of Delray's Southwest Neighbors Association, estimates unemployment in his area is close to 25 percent.

"We have a lot of young people, a lot of seasoned people like myself, who need a job now," said Ridley.

Delray Beach's Community Redevelopment Agency says their focus on beefing up West Atlantic Ave. with a hotel, stores and homes - will help ease the need for jobs.

But it still might not be enough, at least not right away.

"Redevelopment is always a long process," said Elizabeth Burrows, the spokeswoman for the Delray Beach CRA. "Even in a good economy."

In documents we exclusively obtained under the Freedom of Information Law, the hotel's developer, Prime Realty, promises 32 jobs - but only guarantees twenty percent of them - six people if you do the math, will be locally hired.

"That number could be way higher," said Ridley. "Twenty percent is almost insulting."

Wells' heart is set on getting a construction job, buoyed by the hotel developer's pledge to look locally for contractors.

"I just hope I get some work there, something to do. It's only a half -block from home," said Ridley.

The developer says six locals are a minimum number.

He hopes to hire many more than that.

The hotel is expected to be completed in 2014.

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