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The shadow of Whole Foods falls upon JP

There Goes the Neighborhood
By EUGENIA WILLIAMSON  |  March 2, 2011

 Betsaida Gutierrez mourns the passing of the Hi-Lo
Betsaida Gutiérrez mourns the passing of the Hi-Lo.

"I cannot buy any longer the cheap food," the activist said on Monday, addressing a crowd of about 200 at a rally in the Kennedy School gymnasium in Hyde Square. "I can no longer see my friends when I go to the supermarket. . . . Jamaica Plain is for us, not for the rich people."

By "the rich people," Gutiérrez meant those who can afford to shop at Whole Foods, the specialty grocery chain that plans to move into the former Hi-Lo building on Centre Street.

Whose Foods?, the Jamaica Plain residents' group who organized the rally, fears the Whole Foods Effect: studies show that the store's presence can increase property values up to 20 percent — and price out lower-income residents.

After the rally, residents packed the Kennedy School auditorium for a special meeting of the JP Neighborhood Council. Many waved sheets of blue paper that read, "I want an affordable and diverse Jamaica Plain."

Pat Roberts, a 30-year Jamaica Plain resident, was one of Whole Foods' small number of supporters. "I'm delighted that Whole Foods is coming to Jamaica Plain, and I can't believe my good fortune — our good fortune — that this is happening," she told the crowd. "More middle-class people have been moving in for a while now, and thank goodness," she said, and was soon drowned out by deafening boos.

"I say thank you to all those people who have come in and made this a safer, quieter, and cleaner place," she concluded, and was met with louder boos, hisses, and cries of "Racist!"

Tina Cincotti, a resident and a Whole Foods shopper, doesn't feel that way. She moved to JP 12 years ago because of its queer-friendly reputation, and since then, she's known a number of people who had to move because they could no longer afford it.

"On the one hand, I feel like part of the problem because I'm someone who didn't live here who had the money to move here," she says. "But I want to try to make a difference and keep this kind of gentrification from continuing."

By the time the two-hour meeting wrapped up, 40 residents had spoken. The Neighborhood Council will meet again next week to continue the discussion, though they have limited if any regulatory authority, says councilman Steve Backman. "Win or lose, we're looking for as much bargaining power with Whole Foods as possible."

Related: Dead Alive, Photos: El Dia de los Muertos, Freegans raid Whole Foods, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Jamaica Plain, whole foods
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5 Comments / Add Comment

JPCommonSense

"Jamaica Plain is for us, not for the rich people."

How can these clowns claim racism when they are making statements like that? Last time I checked, there was no requirement to be poor and Latino to live in JP!
Posted: March 03 2011 at 7:58 PM

BooDiggly

Social Darwinism. It's all good...
Posted: March 05 2011 at 7:51 PM

JPForever

There is growing sentiment across JP that this divisiveness must end and there is room here for everyone and all kinds of businesses, including a new Latin foods market to replace Hi Lo AND a Whole Foods market. A Hyde Square resident has captured this positive spirit and energy in a petition at www.jpforall.org.
Posted: March 11 2011 at 9:29 AM

Anonymia

The squeaky wheels that are the ones making all the noise about Whole Foods. I first moved to JP in 1985 and I'm psyched Whole Foods is moving in, as are ALL my neighbors.
Posted: March 27 2011 at 5:43 PM

JP pragmatist

"win or lose" ... who loses? there is a stop and shop 5 blocks away - so no other general food retailer would go into the hi lo space. Clearly the census data shows that the Hispanic population no longer has the large enough #'s to support a large market, but there are dozens of bodegas that stock all of the specialty foods that people like and they have said they will carry more now that hi lo has closed, some bodegas are planning expansions - AND Whole Foods will be bringing 100 jobs when hi lo only had about 40 - so who loses? seems like everyone wins - but yet so many whine - "JPforall " seems to be hitting the nail on the head - but that kind of win win does not appeal to people who look for the worst part of anything. Especially newspapers and politicians that thrive on creating controversy - their life blood. No papers ever get sold with good news. No politician ever gets elected or re-elected with good news. The journalists and politician's mantra -" never waste a good crisis" - and if there isn't one - create one - propoganda 101.
Posted: March 28 2011 at 12:22 PM
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