We were inspired to write as we read the letter from Terrence Wells in the JP Gazette, Jan. 21. In his letter he stated that a “for sale” sign should not be posted in our neighborhood when speaking about the transfer of rental property from the Hi-Lo to Whole Foods. Inadvertently, Mr. Wells references a bumper sticker, created at City Life/Vida Urbana somewhere in approximately 1977, which said “Jamaica Plain is not for sale” as the process of “condo-ization” and gentrification was moving into full swing in JP.
The taking of individual rental units in our famous triple-deckers and making them into property for purchase, in order to create more homeowners, drove thousands of working poor tenants from their homes. Some who had lived there for many years had to move out of Boston to Brockton, Randolph and other small towns where rents were still somewhat affordable…for that matter, where there were rental units at all! What a boon to the real estate industry and to absentee landlords who could stop worrying about keeping up their property for the tenant population (as if many of them did!) as they condo-ized and made exorbitant profits. The process has not stopped in Jamaica Plain and the change in demographics is quite evident. It was a tsunami that we were unable to stop. As we have found out in this last housing crisis, not everyone is financially suited to own the American dream, and they do better when provided good, quality housing at affordable rents.
A recent article in the Boston Globe spoke of the drop in the Latino population in JP from 28 percent to 20 percent in recent years. This is what has happened to Hyde Square, Egleston Square and the area around the Brewery Complex. Now, the main source of food from people’s homelands in the Caribbean and Central and South America is being taken from them…and us.
Hi-Lo has been an institution of great importance in this community as many people have already said. Is there a way to stop this? The “diversity” that so many people have moved to JP to experience is fast disappearing and will be pushed even further with the arrival of Whole Foods, a grocery store out of many people’s financial reach as a regular shopper and of most of the residents in the Hyde Square area. It definitely provides a new anchor for continued gentrification of a precious part of JP.
We wish the folks at Hi-Lo all of the best, and perhaps a space will open up for them to re-establish themselves in order to continue the important work of providing food and community to the people of Jamaica Plain.
Sara Driscoll, Dick Monks, Eleanor Roffman