Posts Tagged ‘gentrification’

Boston City Councillor Felix Arroyo

April 28, 2011

Dear Chair Laferriere,

I want to thank you and all of the members of the committee and the Neighborhood Council for your dedication to our community. As a former member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, I know firsthand the many hours each of you devote to improving our neighborhood. Your service is greatly appreciated.

News of Whole Foods Market moving into the Hyde Square section of Jamaica Plain has caused much discussion and debate in our neighborhood. The views range from complete support to complete opposition to everywhere in between.

We must recognize that the arrival of Whole Foods Market brings some immediate positive impacts to the neighborhood including jobs, a larger variety of organic and natural foods, and for property owners, a quick increase in property value.

However, along with these benefits come some concerns that need to be addressed. The same increase in property value can potentially lead to the rapid displacement of low and moderate income renters in the neighborhood. Many of these residents have worked hard to make Jamaica Plain the attractive and desirable neighborhood we are proud to call home. There are also concerns about local employment, the potential parking and traffic congestion, the impact on neighboring small businesses, opportunities for area youth, and preservation of the culture and identity of the community.

After many hours of reflection and conversations with my Jamaica Plain neighbors, I have come to the conclusion that there is an opportunity to take Whole Foods Market up on their offer to be a good community partner. The following are a few ideas, but in the end, I believe this should be an inclusive community-led effort in concert with Whole Foods Market.

  1. Local Hiring — Whole Foods Market has stated there will be 100 jobs at the Whole Foods Market in Hyde Square. Of the 100 jobs, they stated to me that 75 are entry level positions. Whole Foods could commit to hiring a significant percentage of local residents for all 100 jobs. By hiring locally, our community can benefit from the new jobs in our neighborhood.
  2. Parking/Traffic — Whole Foods Market in Hyde Square will attract hundreds of customers that do not normally drive through Jamaica Plain. This will undoubtedly create parking and traffic issues. If Whole Foods hires locally, they can also ensure that their workforce walk, bike or take public transit to work. Also, Whole Foods Market could play a role in solving traffic and parking concerns in the neighborhood.
  3. Neighboring Small Businesses — There are numerous small and locally owned businesses in Hyde Square. By partnering with neighborhood businesses, Whole Foods Market can help ensure that these businesses benefit from their arrival.
  4. The Latin Quarter — Whole Foods Market has stated that every store is reflective of the neighborhood in which they do business. They are planning to move into an area commonly referred to as Boston’s Latin Quarter. Whole Foods Market can best reflect the Latin Quarter by offering traditional Latin foods and by helping to promote the many cultures that help make up Boston’s Latin Quarter.

Whole Foods Market has expressed willingness to financially support local efforts in the communities they enter. I laud this position. I would urge Whole Foods Market to support two very important causes in our community.

  1. Affordable Housing — There are great organizations in Jamaica Plain that work to create and preserve affordable housing. Whole Foods Market could partner with them to help ensure that Jamaica Plain remain the economically diverse community we all love.
  2. Youth Development and Training — Whole Foods Market has shown willingness in word and in action to support youth development and training in our community. I am grateful for that support. Whole Foods Market can continue and explain its support of youth development and training in Jamaica Plain.

Our community is home to many residents and organizations that have dedicated themselves to making Jamaica Plain the great community it is today. It is my hope that Jamaica Plain residents, community based organizations, and Whole Foods Market will agree to come together to ensure that all of Jamaica Plain benefits from a Whole Foods Market in Hyde Square.


Felix G. Arroyo

Boston City Councilor At-Large

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Massachusetts State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz

April 28, 2011

Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council
Whole Foods Ad-Hoc Committee

Dear Chair Steve Laferriere and Members of the JPNC Whole Foods Ad-Hoc Committee:

Thank you for your service to the Jamaica Plain community by taking on this new role within the JP Neighborhood Council. I write today to outline what I hope will serve as constructive suggestions for addressing the controversies that have divided our neighborhood since the release of the news that Whole Foods intended to move into the space of the former Hi-Lo Market.

The planned expansion of a Whole Foods Market into the Hyde Square section of Jamaica Plain has generated heated debate among my constituents. Since I first learned of Hi-Lo Foods’ closing, my office has done its best to understand from all sides the different perspectives on this highly divisive issue. I’ve met with representatives from Whole Foods, spoken with former employees of Hi-Lo, heard from members of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, and spoken with staff at the JPNDC and local Main Streets organizations. My staff members and I attended community meetings at the Blessed Sacrament development, the Kennedy Elementary, and the First Baptist Church, where we listened to the concerns of community activists both for and against the expansion, and in the middle. Most important, we read hundreds of emails and letters from ordinary residents throughout Jamaica Plain detailing how the opening of a Whole Foods in Hyde Square would affect their lives—for better and for worse.

As many residents expressed, there are several positives to bringing a retailer such as Whole Foods to JP. We stand to gain potentially dozens of new jobs in the neighborhood, at rates of pay and with benefits that will likely exceed those paid by Hi-Lo. This is no small thing for the workers and families who will be touched by employment, especially at a time of still-fragile recovery for our economy. Whole Foods could also increase access to healthy food to the Hyde/Jackson area, especially for those without cars, at a time when many other low-income neighborhoods suffer dire health impacts because of the lack of such access. I believe firmly that all people deserve to have realistic healthful food options, no matter what zip code or socio-economic bracket they live in.

Unfortunately, there are also serious negative impacts that Whole Foods’ entry into the neighborhood is likely to bring. I believe, with a heavy heart, that these disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

Looking at data from other instances where Whole Foods has located in low- and middle-income neighborhoods, it’s clear that the presence of Whole Foods rapidly and substantially raises property values in its surrounding areas. This is the inherent problem. Even if Whole Foods behaves as the best corporate citizen, the best neighbor possible by all of our usual standards, its presence will still light a fire under the gentrification process that will displace low- and moderate- income residents from JP.

Increasing property values in our community is not always bad. Indeed, this is something every home owner in JP—low- or high-income, white, brown, or black—probably hopes for. But pace matters. A lot. There are families who have spent generations building JP into the incredible neighborhood it is today. We stand to lose many of these families, and their friends and neighbors, if property taxes and rents balloon so fast that their incomes can’t keep up. In order to preserve the character of JP that we all love and believe in so deeply, development has to happen at a pace our neighbors can benefit from, not be displaced by.

Whole Foods has said many times that they aspire to be a positive neighbor and a responsible corporate citizen in the JP community. I believe this is true and therefore ask Whole Foods to recognize that their typical strategy for integrating into new neighborhoods is not designed to protect economically and socially diverse communities. In action, this requires Whole Foods to take some specific steps to help mitigate the impacts described above.

  1. Whole Foods has stated that they expect to hire about 100 workers at their planned JP location. In order for local residents to actually benefit from this job creation, and for Whole Foods’ presence to contribute to local wealth creation, Whole Foods needs to commit to hiring locally for a specific percentage of these jobs.
  2. Whole Foods should also work with credible community groups in the Hyde/Jackson area to set up and endow a community preservation fund for the purpose of keeping Hyde/Jackson area properties affordable for current residents. This will mean front-loading Whole Foods’ typical neighborhood philanthropy, replacing its current strategy of rolling “5% days” and small donations to a variety of groups. The trouble with that existing strategy is that, not too long from now, Whole Foods’ corporate giving in JP will be benefiting the future neighborhood that its presence will create—not the current neighbors who’ve worked so hard to make JP what it is today and who stand to be displaced. Endowing a fund that could buy available property in the Hyde/Jackson area with a commitment to keeping it affordable will require a serious financial commitment—no doubt. But Whole Foods’ detrimental impact on the neighborhood in the absence of such an investment would be of a far greater magnitude.

If making commitments of this size is beyond Whole Foods’ reach, the simplest way to protect the neighborhood would be for Whole Foods to break their lease on the Hyde Square space, or sublet it to another grocer specializing in Latino foods.

I make these proposals as an elected official who represents all of the JP community, and who is committed to stewarding its long-term interests. But I also make them as a JP resident who deeply loves this community—with all its blemishes, all its character, and all its complexities. I know you, as JPNC members, share this passion for our community. I thank you again for your service in tackling these difficult issues and look forward to working with you to find solutions that reflect the pride, creativity, and mutual respect that are the fundamental values of our neighborhood.


Sonia Chang-Díaz 
State Senator 
Second Suffolk District

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Here is a longer version of the Whose Foods? anti-Whole Foods rally held this weekend in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston. This footage follows the group as it walked down Center Street through JP’s “Latin Quarter” to the site where the new Whole Foods will open later this year.

A previous video of the rally’s close was posted on YouTube during the event.

Although the Whose Foods? Facebook fan page claimed that “hundreds” of people attended the rally, as we filmed the crowd on the site of the former Hi-Lo market, we counted and estimated about 80 people, excluding young children.

Many families showed up at the rally.

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After hitting a minor lull, the controversy surrounding the opening of a new Whole Foods store in the Hyde Square section of Jamaica Plain in Boston has bubbled up again, and social media continues to play a major role in how different messages are being communicated.

The Jamaica Plain Patch reported today that more anti-Whole Foods banners were hung on a billboard in JP.

The JP Patch reported this story today.

Another banner in Spanish also appeared:

The Spanish banner contain an error for Verdaderamente but it says the same thing as English.

The banners were making a reference to the Facebook page of JP for All, a site that is promoting diversity in JP businesses and economic growth for the neighborhood. The site has been organizing a petition drive to all of Boston’s political leaders who have interest in the issue. Earlier today, it posted the following:

We are closing in on 400 declared City of Boston supporters of a JP for All. Keep up the momentum. It would be incredible if we could hit the 500 mark before our first signature gathering event on April 9th! Keep passing along the link and/or the downloadable petition to your City of Boston friends and family.

In the meantime, the anti-Whole Foods organization called Whose Foods? has issued an email about their activities:

Friends and neighbors,

We’re excited to share some updates with you and to let you know of ways you can plug into working for an affordable and diverse JP this week! In this email, you’ll find:

1. Rally this Saturday, April 2! Join us!
2. Outreach this week
3. JP Neighborhood Council meeting tomorrow night
4. Vision for alternatives meeting
5. JP residents’ visit to Whole Foods regional headquarters last week

1. RALLY THIS SATURDAY: Celebrate JP’s Diversity & Protect it Now
We will rally and march to celebrate JP’s diversity this Saturday, April 2. Meet us in Mozart Park at 3 PM, where we’ll have food to share, a DJ, activities for kids and more! By 4 PM, we’ll leave the park on a march to the former Hi-Lo space, where we’ll hold another short rally. Please join us!

… And please help us create a strong event. We need your help this week!

2. OUTREACH this week

Petition gathering & flyering:
Groups of folks are meeting up at Jackson Square T station this week to petition and pass out flyers. Please join us! Email whosefoodsjp@gmail.com with any questions.
• Monday 5:30-6:30pm
• Tuesday: Sign up to coordinate! whosefoodsjp@gmail.com
• Wednesday 12:00-2:00pm
• Thursday 4:30pm
• Friday: Sign up to coordinate! whosefoodsjp@gmail.com 

Phone banking to turn out people to the rally:
We’re calling everybody on our list to turn out folks! Food will be provided. Spanish speakers needed!
Thursday 6-8pm – email Cheryl at CDeSanctis47@gmail.com
Friday 6-8pm – email Ximena at ximenaiz2@gmail.com for location details

3. JP Neighborhood Council Meeting
Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 29 at 7 PM
At First Baptist on Centre Street, next to the Post Office

The JPNC will meet for their regular monthly meeting tomorrow night, March 29. On their agenda will be the role of the new Whole Foods Ad-Hoc Committee. It would be great to have supporters attend the meeting to let the JPNC know we support their work for an affordable and diverse neighborhood, and that support for that vision is growing. 

4. Vision for alternatives meeting:
People will be meeting to explore alternatives for 415 Centre St. If you are excited about exploring alternatives, you should get involved!
Tuesday 3/29 at 6 PM in Hyde Square. Email Ximena at ximenaiz2@gmail.com for location information

5. JP Residents visit Whole Foods Regional Headquarters & mail packets to Whole Foods Board of Directors

In case you missed the news, last week a dozen JP residents delivered our first 1,000 petition signatures to the Whole Foods regional headquarters in Cambridge. Last week each member of the Whole Foods Board of Directors also received a packet of information that included media coverage of our work and copies of our first 1,000 petition signatures. Check out photos and video of the petition delivery and news coverage from the Metro, Boston.com, and the JP Patch. (Please take a minute to leave a positive comment on those news pages while you’re there!)



This coalition is a group of all-volunteer JP residents and friends that came together in early February with shared concerns about Hi-Lo’s closing and the news of Whole Foods entrance to JP. Thanks to your work and support, in just over a month we’ve managed to gather over 1,000 petition signatures, deliver those petitions to Whole Foods Regional Headquarters, meet with our elected officials, talk to thousands of our neighbors, turn out hundreds of residents to JP Neighborhood Council meetings and support them in their stance for an equitable JP, and create a base of support for an affordable and diverse JP, one that is stronger without Whole Foods.

The Patch also wrote about a flyer in Spanish that is appearing in the neighborhood, encouraging people to attend the Whose Foods? rally on Saturday. The translation of the flyer reads as follows:


Organizations and individuals from JP and beyond, motivated by greed, are manipulating a plan that will raise rents by up to 20% for EVERYONE in the Hyde Square area, this means that a war against the working class and especially against ALL the minorities that have lived here for such a long time, who have invested a lot of work in having a Community where Diversity is what UNITES us!


The Patch did confirm on its Facebook site that this flyer was not authorized by Whose Foods? nor does it represent Whose Foods?

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In response to the news of a new Whole Foods store in the Hyde Square section of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Boston City Council President Stephen J. Murphy issued the following email statement through his Director of Communications and Policy:

Boston City Council President Stephen J. Murphy (©Boston Globe)

Thank you for your email regarding Whole Foods moving into the former location of Hi-Lo Foods in Jamaica Plain. While it is understandable that there are concerns over Hi-Lo closing and Whole Foods moving in, I believe the move of Whole Foods to the neighborhood is a good one. Much like Jamaica Plain, Whole Foods is stocked with diversity and I believe that what the neighborhood loves so much about Hi-Lo will also be found at Whole Foods.

Again, I thank you for contacting me to share your feelings on this issue. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

All the best,

Stephen J. Murphy, Boston 
City Council President

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After staying quiet for about two weeks, Whole Foods issued a statement last week about the recent developments regarding the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s rejection of a new Whole Foods store opening in the Hyde Square section of the Boston neighborhood. A statement by Whole Food’s regional president Laura Derba was issued. It reads:

There has been a lot of conversation about Whole Foods Market coming to Jamaica Plain – positive and negative. We have heard both sides. While we are certainly disappointed that the final vote by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council was not in our favor, we are encouraged that it was such a close vote. We are greatly appreciative of the resounding support we have been receiving today in response to the council’s decision, from JP residents and businesses alike. We remain excited to serve the neighborhood, and eager to prove ourselves as positive community partners.

It is clear from this statement that despite the Council’s actions and new posts and videos from Whose Foods? organization, that Whole Foods is committed to open up a new store in JP.

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On March 11, organizers of  Whole Foods?—a group of Jamaica Plain residents committed to stopping the arrival of a new Whole Foods in Hyde Square—filmed several JP residents who are opposing the neighborhood’s new store. Even with announcements that new Latino grocery stores would also be opening in Hyde Square, there are still concerns from some residents about whether Whole Foods would benefit JP. Here is the video that was posted by Whose Foods?:

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