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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?

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Comment by Steve Garfield on January 18, 2011 at 4:42am

I there was a LIKE button on here I'd click LIKE on Brett's post.


"no facts have come out yet...."


Thanks for writing that.

Comment by Brett on January 17, 2011 at 7:50pm
"Pitting us against each other"? You're the one who rashly issued an aggressive war-cry before Whole Foods has even announced what their plans are or had a chance to engage the community.

You (and Kurt, and Stacey) have used combative language, mocked those who disagree with you, and made wild appeal-to-emotion comparisons to things like the Southwest Artery project. You've condemned a supermarket chain run by stakeholder model ( ), who provides livable wages, promotes sustainable fishing, supplies decent produce (organic and conventional), and supports fair trade, and both animal and farmworker rights. "Nasty stain on JP"?

I guess I'm doomed to forever be Big Bad Market Forces Guy, but market forces are what melded Hi-Lo into what it is today; it adapted from serving Irish and Italian residents, because they all moved out and Hi-Lo was going out of business as a result. So they changed. See:

Also, the city recently gave Hi-Lo a grant, they were working with the it doesn't sound like Hi-Lo was being ignored or neglected by community leaders and the city. Yet they still are shutting down.

This was a decision the owners of Hi-Lo made. You really have to ask yourself: why would these people decide to shut down and lease the building to Whole Foods if it's so Evil?

Either you believe they're good people and acted in the interests of that community(for example, maybe they negotiated with Whole Foods to stock certain goods and produce) or you believe they Sold Out. Which is it? My personal answer: I have absolutely no idea, because virtually no facts have come out yet....
Comment by Eric on January 17, 2011 at 5:05pm
I think at this point the city is firmly focused on putting that public market near Faneuil Hall. Considering how hard it is to do anything in this city, how Menino gets laser-focused on certain projects and the fact that it seems at this point as though you'd be interfering in a private sale, I don't think it is likely to get the Public Market put in JP. I don't see why they would necessarily put a public market in an area that is not centrally located and where tourists are not likely to go either.
Comment by Pat Roberts on January 17, 2011 at 4:59pm
Another possibility is for a store selling the Hi-Lo product line to use one of the retail spaces that are available in the Blessed Sacrament development that the NDC is working on.  The NDC is also building a big apartment building at Lamartine and Centre (across from Bromley Heath), and that building might also have retail space on the first floor. The NDC isn't a for-profit company, so they might be able to offer a store lower than market rent.
Comment by Steve Garfield on January 17, 2011 at 2:32pm

@Robbie I have some concerns as outlined in this article about a new Target store.

Most interesting are the questions at the bottom of the article, many of which are relative to Jamaica Plain.

Comment by Robbie Samuels on January 17, 2011 at 1:44pm

@Bill - this is exactly the kind of outside the box brainstorming that could help us find a resolution that meets more people's needs instead of pitting us against each other.

If you want to connect with Edith Mernane, her JPNFN profile is:

@Kurt - I haven't seen anything concrete. I expect folks (e.g. Hyde/Jackson Square Main Streets, JPNDC & City Life/Vida Urbana) are trying to get together, discuss and then announce - and with a 3 day weekend things have been slowed down. Since I don't represent an organization I can jump right into the fray but if I did I'd have to wait to discuss a response/plan with my board/group. I hope we hear something soon though so folks like you can join their efforts and we can respond as a community rather than individually.

Also, I haven't seen any actual confirmation from Whole Foods that they purchased Hi-Lo and plan to move in. Just quotes from the Hi-Lo manager but no comment (that I've seen) from Knapp (Hi-Lo's parent company) or Whole Foods.

Comment by Kurt S. on January 17, 2011 at 1:34pm

There goes the neighborhood.


What I've been searching for all weekend, and I'm not finding, is a concerted effort against this move.  Is there anything happening?  I'm strongly anti-WF, and I'm willing to put time and effort against what I think will be a nasty stain on JP.

Comment by Bill on January 17, 2011 at 1:31pm

Boston is in the process of trying to establish a Boston Public Market, a year round farmer's market, something akin to, I think, Reading Terminal in Philly, which is not just produce, but food stalls and vendors of all sorts in an indoor market. I'm wondering if Hi-Lo is a reasonable (square footage, facilities, etc.) space to do a smaller scale version of that, where possibly you could have vendors selling many of the products lost with Hi-Lo leaving. In addition, there'd be more fresh food made available, and potential to support a diversity of local businesses, and possibly even serve as a gateway for entrepreneurs who wouldn't have considered going it alone.

Boston apparently has a food czar in the Mayor's Office, who happens to be a long-time JP resident, Edith Murnane. Any ideas on how to bring her into the conversation?


JP should be the perfect place to chart a different and compelling middle ground, unconstrained by "it's either this or that" kind of thinking. A thriving market that served JP's diverse communities, both culturally and economically, would be a heck of a model for other neighborhoods.

Comment by Rira on January 17, 2011 at 10:36am

The answer for anyone or any organized group/partnership is simple. 

If you want to see something done your way, approach the owners of hi-lo and buy the property. 

Then,  do whatever you like with it.



Comment by Robbie Samuels on January 17, 2011 at 9:43am

@Steve - thanks for the link. I'm not saying WH has no redeeming qualities. I've even been known to shop there myself and would likely shop there if it was in JP (I'm definitely the demographic they're targeting).

If WH coming in to JP didn't mean Hi-Lo closing I might be focusing on other aspects of this saga. I might be considering the effect of WH moving in on the local organic/specialty food shops in JP, the effect it will have on parking and traffic and the questions one might ask if a big box store was moving in to a neighborhood that has embraced diversity and locally-owned shops over convenience and simplicity.

Do you have any thoughts on those questions? This is a complicated issue and WH being good in some areas (local, workers) doesn't make this easier.

In addition, I posed a question asking where will the Latino & Caribbean communities find the ingredients they've been getting at Hi-Lo - many has stated Hi-Lo reminds them of home and connects them with their family's culture. That's my main concern at the moment and until there's a plan in place to remedy that I'm not expecting it to just be a quick fix based on market demand.

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