As Atlantic Avenue continues to expand, local residents of Delray Beach have begun to feel like their small, ocean-side city has become to feel more like a tourist attraction and less like home.
Those who have lived in Delray Beach for several years have witnessed the massive growth of Atlantic Avenue, a street in Downtown Delray now bustling with shops and restaurants.
“Back in the early 2000s the land was half as developed as it is now,” claims Matthew Wallace, a Delray Beach native. “After recent hurricanes our city was pretty beat up, leaving Atlantic Avenue not as populated. As condos developed all around the city, Atlantic Avenue seems to have become more developed with many new restaurants and shops.”
In fact, the Avenue has become so densely populated, residents have become less than enthusiastic about visiting.
“I haven’t been Downtown in a while because of how busy it is. Even around the holidays like the Christmas tree lighting and Fourth of July fireworks there are triple the amount of people there were while I was growing up,” said Clayton Stevens, who has spent his entire childhood in Delray.
Prior to their expansion, Atlantic Avenue still generated a lot of foot traffic with their annual events, such as their tree lighting. Over 40,000 individuals visit Downtown to witness the lighting of the 100-foot Christmas tree, and within the next two weeks its visitors will reach over 150,000. The tree also generates $5 million of economic impact for the small city.
However, residents have begun to pay a price for the heavy influx of people. In addition to foot traffic, automobile traffic on the Avenue has left many locals frustrated.
“Even at two o’clock in the morning we can take a good 20 minutes to drive through the entire Downtown because of the heavy traffic,” said Wallace. “With the drawbridge and traffic lights on every block I sometimes find myself stuck in the middle the intersection not allowing traffic to pass through.”
Though incoming tourists and fellow South Floridians flock to the Avenue for a night of fun or a day in the sun, Delray Beach residents are beginning to fear the expansion of Downtown is becoming more a nuisance than an asset.