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Nonprofit 'blindsided' after Delray Beach terminates Old School Square lease agreement

'It has been a pattern for a few years now,' vice mayor says
Old School Square in Delray Beach
Posted at 3:29 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 17:06:50-04

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — A nonprofit is left wondering why their lease agreement has been stopped with the city of Delay Beach.

City leaders voted Tuesday night to end the lease with the organization that helps run Old School Square.

However, the founder of the historic site said they had no idea this was coming.

Frances Bourque helped create Old School Square after the city took over the historic school buildings in the 1980s.

"If we had a Central Park in Delray Beach (Old School Square) would be the Central Park," Bourque said.

Frances Bourque, helped create Old School Square in Delray Beach
Frances Bourque discusses the disappointment concerning the termination of the Old School Square lease.

Over the years, the pavilion has been home to events and concerts, including recent sellout shows for musician Jimmy Buffett.

The city commission voted 3-2 to end the lease agreement with the nonprofit that runs Old School Square after an audit found them not to be compliant.

"Frankly we were blindsided," Bourque said.

She said they were aware they needed to submit documents to the city and have been working with city staff for the last month to do so.

"We immediately tried to become compliant," Bourque said.

She said she had no idea the commission was to the point where they would end their decades-long partnership.

"I don't understand how we got from A to Z with none of the letters in between," Bourque said.

Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson made the motion to terminate the lease during Tuesday's meeting.

Delray Beach Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson
Delray Beach Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson speaks about ending the Old School Square lease with the nonprofit.

"Lately it appears the requirements on their part were not being met," Johnson said.

She said after learning about Old School Square not turning in recent audit reports and renovations that were started on sections of the property without city approval, she felt it was time to move on.

"It didn't just start yesterday. It has been a pattern for a few years now," Johnson said.

Bourque said they have complied with their lease and even spoke with the city attorney to see if changes could be made.

However, the city commission's vote will give written notice to the nonprofit that their lease will end in at least 180 days.

"I hope I wake up tomorrow, and this will be a bad dream," Bourque said.