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What impacts should be considered and what should the community process look like if Whole Foods is really planning to move into JP?

As you know, the Jamaica Plain Gazette and JP Patch are reporting that Whole Foods will be moving into the building currently owned by Hi-Lo Foods - even though Whole Foods has yet to confirm.

Highlights of questions that have been raised so far include: What will be the impacts on local businesses, the Latino and Caribbean communities, traffic, parking patterns, the cost of rent, and properties values?

Given that these impacts could be significant, I propose we need a community process!

We need to educate ourselves about the facts, understand what we can legally influence and how, and ensure that all those potentially impacted are made aware and given the opportunity to participate in the process.

Let's discuss:

  1. What other potential impacts need to be considered?
  2. What should the community process look like, who needs to be involved, and how should we go about beginning the process?
Joseph

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Comment by Sheila on February 14, 2011 at 2:59pm

Hi All - an interesting article from the globe today about this:

 

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/blogs/the_angle...

 

Comment by Todd on January 20, 2011 at 11:56am

Hi Dax! That's a great point that I forgot. I think the real point is that so many people are losing their jobs. Does anyone have any experience with observing how transitions like this were handled in the past, whether specificly by Whole Foods when they bought locations or other industries like book stores or whatnot? I would imagine that it would be in Whole Foods' interests to hire experienced grocery workers. And if they live nearby and are looking for a job, all the better.

Comment by Todd on January 20, 2011 at 11:52am

Yeah, from what I have read, Whole Foods treats their employees really well. Do Stop and Shop or the other grocery chains hire only temp workers? If not, why suspect WF of that? Is it necessary for Whole Foods to expose all the details of the business dealings to the public?

 

I think that we have the problem here that we are moving at "internet speeds" and the Hi Lo / Whole Foods transition is happening at "regular speeds". We can chatter as much as we want and we get all worked up when in reality it's only been fewer than 2.5 business days since the announcement. So I think that while Whole Foods hasn't engaged the community yet is a real observation, it's perhaps a bit premature. The store isn't going to open tomorrow; it's going to take at least 2 - 3 months to fix up the store to their specifications.

 

Also, while Hi Lo sells primarily latin american foods, I think that solely grouping the impact of the closing of the store on the "latin american community" doesn't strike me as right. When I go to Stop and Shop I shop along with many latin americans and others. I am sure that the impact of Hi Lo closing will impact many people of many ethnicities, while many people will not care.

 

Looking at the demographics of JP, in 2008, Hispanics accounted for 30% of the population. This is up from 2000 where they were 23%You can also see that the majority of people living here have white-collar jobs, so I think that claims of recent gentrification ring false. I make no value judgments on these numbers; they are just facts.

Comment by Steve Garfield on January 19, 2011 at 10:22pm

Thanks Matt.

 

Have you seen this from earlier today:

 

Whole Foods announces move to Jamaica Plain

 

“Whole Foods Market has been keenly interested in developing a Jamaica Plain location. We are now eager to become active members of such a strong, diverse neighborhood and to open a store that is reflective of the vibrant community,” Laura Derba, Whole Foods Market North Atlantic regional president, said in a statement.

Comment by Daniel Verinder on January 19, 2011 at 10:17pm

Thank you, Reed, Karen, and Councillor O'Malley! I'll confess that I did not vote for you, but next time likely will! I think we should add this as an impact item:

1) What is the impact on former Hi-Lo workers?

 

From what I can tell, they were given 3 weeks notice, no additional warning, and nothing to suggest that WF will hire them back, let alone with the same wages, benefits, seniority, etc. (http://jamaicaplain.patch.com/articles/hispanic-community-saddened-...)

Manta's estimate is that Hi-Lo employed 50-99 workers (http://www.manta.com/c/mm27y06/hi-lo-foods). The new Whole Foods is expected to employ about the same number of workers, but if it hires 100 college students who leave in 4 years, how does that help offset the 50-99 local residents who lost their jobs during a period of record high unemployment? In fact, the most loyal workers will be punished the most, as they will be older and therefore probably have a harder time finding work. (They will have more skills/experience, but the industry, with its drive to self-checkout, etc. may not care when trying to cut expenses.) (I of course have no proof that WF will hire mostly temporary transplants, but the fact still stands that the Hi-Lo workers today have no promise from WF that they will be re-hired, and it has pushed some of them to cancel utilities for fear of being unable to find work and pay them.)

 

For those of you who think that the bodegas will fill the need, the 1st link above shows that Hi-Lo customers find the bodegas wanting. Also, to clarify Jeremy's comment, while the sole self-identified Latina commenter in that article was pro-WF, there was a Latino commenter who was anti-WF, and the 1st link above shows that many Latino/a customers and employees oppose the change. And to that Latina commenter's point-there's already a WF very close to us, do we really need another one? 

 

Now, that may be a moot question. In fact, since Hi-Lo/Knapp so willingly sold, I think it is definitely a moot question to ask how to keep Hi-Lo here. Apparently they don't want to be here any more. I think the questions are, what, if any, say do the residents of JP and former customers and workers of Hi-Lo  have in what business moves in next? As a follow-up, regardless of who moves in, how do we hold them responsible/accountable to the neighborhood? And lastly, as I think was brought up elsewhere, do we have a structural problem killing JP independently-owned businesses? (i.e. is commercial rent/real estate too high?) If so, what can we do to address that?

 

Comment by Reed Miller on January 19, 2011 at 4:27pm

Hey there,

As a recent JP transplant, question for folks who may know regarding the current Hi-Lo workers: 

Are they represented by a union / association (and if so, are they involved in the process)?  Are Whole Foods workers unionized (I doubt it...but,).  As a white person interested in being accountable to POC in JP, I'd really like to see JP folks push WF to rehire all of these workers [ahem...if that is what the workers want, they REALLY need to be part of this conversation]!

 

Other threads have talked about accessibility to foods that Hi-Lo currently offers.  It may be an issue, but also a business opportunity for a specialty small business. 

I think the price differential in Hi-Lo's foods in general vs Whole Foods is something to be talking about... my assumption is that WF will slowly drive up rent in the area as landlords assume they can charge higher rents as people who can afford WF will move to the area.  That might further the process of gentrification Robbie spoke of.

 

Congrats to Matthew O'Malley for being pro-active on this!

 

Comment by Karen Sheffler on January 19, 2011 at 2:41pm

THIS IS FROM A POST ON JP MOM'S BIGTENT BLOG.  IT IS A LETTER BACK FROM MATT O'MALLEY ON THE WHOLE FOODS ISSUE:

 

From: "O'Malley, Matthew" 

My office has called both Whole Foods and the Hi-Lo management about getting some concrete answers. We are awaiting responses from both organizations and are looking forward to organizing a meeting to hopefully facilitate a discussion that would serve to: a.) keep the community process open, b.) fight to protect jobs for current employees, c.) alleviate concerns about the impact on the community.

I think we all agree that we need a strong anchored business in Hyde Square . Indeed, Whole Foods may be that business (if Hi-Lo is, in fact, leaving). However, the community has some legitimate questions that should be addressed. As your city councilor, and neighbor of Hyde Square , I'll make sure that everyone is in the loop as the process progresses.

Feel free to call my office (617-635-4220) or cell (617-935-9752) and forward this email to any interested party.

Comment by Jeremy McHugh on January 19, 2011 at 12:04am
Informative article on JP Patch recently published: LINK   . According to this article, the manager of Hi Lo has been there for 47 years, and that WF made an offer to lease the location which was financially attractive and timely to the management team. 47 years is a good run by any measure. Also, in the comment section, the sole latina commenter yet heard from describes how she regularly travels to Symphony WF currently to get her fresh, local, organic produce. Interesting. If this Patch article is accurate, then perhaps calls for protests and saving the Hi Lo are a bit premature....
Comment by Daniel Verinder on January 18, 2011 at 11:12pm

For folks looking for more on Whole Foods' business practices, good and bad, Wikipedia does a pretty decent job of laying it out. For history buffs and sentimentalists, Whole Foods lists the histories of all the other stores they've taken over in the past, under a section they call "Our History". For instance, before Whole Foods took it over, Brookline-based Bread and Circus was the largest natural foods retailer in the northeast:

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company/history.php#4

 

As a TX transplant myself, I'm starting to realize that WF and I have a lot in common-we both want to live here, and we both have big appetites.

 

As far as what impacts need to be considered, below are what I could think of.   I tried (and sometimes failed) to be general, considering we don't even know if a WF is coming, and considering any number of organizations could become the new owners:

 

1) Economic impact on pre-existing neighborhood businesses/competitors, including grocers, restaurants, bars/pubs, convenience stores/bodegas, and liquor store owners.


2) Economic impact on local economy-how much of the business's money stays in JP,Boston, MA, U.S. (via taxes, local employees' incomes, local goods carried, and support of local organizations). How much moneyleaves JP, Boston, MA, U.S.? 

3) Impact on traffic, including public transit times and pedestrian and bicycle safety. 

4) More broadly, impact on quality of life.

5) Impact on area wages.

6) Environmental impact, including resulting from changes in traffic, structural changes, and product delivery, as well as corporate environmental policies and activities, and as well as public health.

7) Impact on identity, culture, and history of the neighborhood.

8) Impact on the availability of affordable goods for neighborhood residents. 

9) Impact on crime.

10) Impact on community-how do the new owners encourage or discourage community?

11) Impact on property values and population growth. Does the new business encourage or discourage people moving/staying here, and how?

 

I have to walk my dogs, so I'll pass on what the community process should look like, though I think it should involve some open meetings with community input, perhaps hosted by the JPA or analogous body,  so that any potential owners could answer any questions that residents may have. Domino's had to petition the ZBA, (http://jamaicaplaingazette.com/node/3555) and there was an opportunity for community input then. Presumably the same would be true for the new owners of the Hi-Lo space. 

 

 

Comment by Joseph Porcelli (Chief Neighbor) on January 18, 2011 at 9:40pm

Neighbors,

I've just updated our Community Guideline. Please take a moment to read and comment with your suggestions. 

What I really appreciate about this discussion are the diversity of opinions, points, and suggestions being shared. I'm learning a lot from everyone and feel like I have a better understand of what needs to be considered. Thank you! 

I do however request that we stay focused on the tasks at hand - which are:

  1. What other potential impacts need to be considered?
  2. What should the community process look like, who needs to be involved, and how should we go about beginning the process?

From here on out - any comments that are mean sprited or not constructive will be deleted. 

Thanks, 

Joseph

 

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