National chains feed landlords, not neighborhoods

November 3, 2006
By

At a recent business association meeting, we heard a request for approval of a new dessert café. We asked if he had experience and had to smile in memory of the Old English Tea Room which his father owned. The address is now known for the avant-garde hipsters of our fair city. Service, civility and tradition succumbed to the need for a singles bar at 29 Newbury St.

My thoughts went to another urban travesty, Harvard Square, once the domain of students with its accessible restaurants and bookstores. I bemoan the fact that the Tasty is gone, Elsie’s Kitchen, with the classic yell, “corn beef on sisal,” the cholesterol brothel, Wursthaus, the Toga, and, most of all, the Temple Bar Bookstore with its couches to read poetry journals for hours, no charge, just be careful with the merchandise. All gone…

But none of this is why I write. I am concerned about landlords, JP landlords to be certain. There are a few along the Centre Street byway who appear to value the price per square foot above the importance of locally owned businesses. Businesses we love and shop at have shut down for the burden of excessive rents. Yes, once upon a time there was a bookstore in JP that had a couch and poetry readings. A thriving artist community has been expunged. Rents at a local non-profit have doubled or gone above market rate, causing local unemployment. And now…

Papa Gino’s may be coming to town. Sure, renting to national chains will stuff the wallets of the landlords, but will it benefit Jamaica Plain? These property owners are taking the very essence and character of Jamaica Plain and converting it into cash in the pocket.

Jamaica Plain! We are the community that halted the I-95 Corridor Project. We stopped development on Jamaica Pond. Now is the time to support your local businesses, write your elected representatives, make a fuss and stop the porcine greed.

Carlos B. Icaza
Jamaica Plain

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