Capitalism and market corrections are alive and well in Jamaica Plain, a storied Boston neighborhood known for its diversity and support of local businesses. This past weekend, the Jamaica Plain Gazette reported that at least three Latino groceries are interested in setting up shop in the Hyde Sqaure area of JP, the place where the venerable Hi-Lo market has closed and will be replaced by a new Whole Foods store.
As the article states:
“We have received inquiries from three potential [Latino food] markets. We can definitely say we are looking into that,” Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation spokesperson Sally Swenson told the Gazette.
The inquiries are for space in the JPNDC’s mixed-use Doña Betsaida Gutierrez rental cooperative at 363 Centre St. has 36 affordable residential units and 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space currently available for lease. The co-op is two blocks from Hi-Lo’s former home at 415 Centre St.
The co-op is named after a long-time JP activist, who is opposing Whole Foods coming to Hyde Square. And the JPNDC—a non-profit with community-oriented real estate development and community organizing as parts of its mission—hosted the first public meeting to discuss the implications of the Whole Foods move in the building’s retail space Jan. 26.
When we started blogging about the Whole Foods story, we were one of the first outlets to question Whole Foods about how they would cater to the Latino clientele that had grown to love the Caribbean and Latin American products the Hi-Lo used to carry. Even as pro-Whole Foods and anti-Whole Foods groups started to sprout up on social media, the whole issue of how to preserve JP’s “Latin Quarter” was a central one that dominated our blog postings and reader comments.
Rep. Sánchez Comments About New Developments
Massachusetts State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez (D), who has not returned or responded to our countless requests for a statement about his position, did attend the meeting about this new development:
At that meeting, state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez pointed to the existence of a building named after Gutierrez as evidence that the Latino community is deeply entrenched in JP. He and representatives from the Mayor’s Office, including longtime JP activist Enerio “Tony” Barros, said they believe other retailers would be able to fill the commercial hole that was left when Hi-Lo closed.
Gutierrez and others have expressed other worries, though. In a video on the Whose Foods? Whose Community? Coalition web site, Gutierrez said, “Whole Foods, if it ever comes, is basically going to ruin our diversity. Already landlords are talking about increasing rents, which means they’re going to get rid of us and we’ll have to move somewhere else.”
Gutierrez also signed a letter from the coalition opposing Whole Foods in JP that was sent to the Gazette. And she joined over 100 anti-Whole Foods activists at a rally and public hearing—where Whole Foods opponents and proponents spoke—on Feb. 28 at the Kennedy School in Hyde Square.
While it is unknown if local landlords are planning to raise rents in the area, many residents have expressed concerns that the Whole Foods is an early sign that the cost of living could go up in Hyde Square.
We think this new development is a very positive one for JP and its Latin Quarter. It is also a true win-win for JP residents. Since the overwhelming majority of JP residents who took our Whole Foods survey suggests strong support for the new Whole Foods store, the potential market introduction of new Latino grocers into Hyde Square will help quell one major concern of the neighborhood’s Latino clientele: Where will I get food products from my country?
Sure, there are still several questions about Whole Foods and gentrification that have also arisen, but we are encouraged by what the Gazette reported this past weekend. Once those Latino grocers open up in JP, we will be the first in line to buy our sofritos and plantains.