New Latino groceries look at Hyde Sq.

March 4, 2011
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Gazette Photo by David Taber
Betsaida Gutierrez speaking at a Feb. 28 rally put on by the Whose Food? Whose Community? Coalition rally at the Kennedy School in Hyde Square. The rally attracted more than 100 opponents of plans by Whole Foods Market to open a new store at 415 Centre St.—the former home of Hi-Lo Foods, a grocery store that largely catered to Jamaica Plain’s Latino community. Another building in Hyde Square named for Gutierrez may become home to a new Latino grocer. The rally was followed by a public hearing, also at the school, hosted by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, where both Whole Foods proponents and opponents spoke.

HYDE SQ.—At least three Latino grocers have expressed interest in opening up shop in the wake of Hi-Lo Foods’ closing last month and the announcement the 47-year-old market, which specialized in Central and South American foodstuffs, would be replaced by a Whole Foods Market.

“We have received inquiries from three potential [Latino food] markets. We can definitely say we are looking into that,” Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation spokesperson Sally Swenson told the Gazette.

The inquiries are for space in the JPNDC’s mixed-use Doña Betsaida Gutierrez rental cooperative at 363 Centre St. has 36 affordable residential units and 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space currently available for lease. The co-op is two blocks from Hi-Lo’s former home at 415 Centre St.

The co-op is named after a long-time JP activist, who is opposing Whole Foods coming to Hyde Square. And the JPNDC—a non-profit with community-oriented real estate development and community organizing as parts of its mission—hosted the first public meeting to discuss the implications of the Whole Foods move in the building’s retail space Jan. 26.

At that meeting, state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez pointed to the existence of a building named after Gutierrez as evidence that the Latino community is deeply entrenched in JP. He and representatives from the Mayor’s Office, including longtime JP activist Enerio “Tony” Barros, said they believe other retailers would be able to fill the commercial hole that was left when Hi-Lo closed.

Gutierrez and others have expressed other worries, though. In a video on the Whose Foods? Whose Community? Coalition web site, Gutierrez said, “Whole Foods, if it ever comes, is basically going to ruin our diversity. Already landlords are talking about increasing rents, which means they’re going to get rid of us and we’ll have to move somewhere else.”

Gutierrez also signed a letter from the coalition opposing Whole Foods in JP that was sent to the Gazette. And she joined over 100 anti-Whole Foods activists at a rally and public hearing—where Whole Foods opponents and proponents spoke—on Feb. 28 at the Kennedy School in Hyde Square.

While it is unknown if local landlords are planning to raise rents in the area, many residents have expressed concerns that the Whole Foods is an early sign that the cost of living could go up in Hyde Square.

Correction:Due to a reporting error, the commercial space in the mixed-use development at 363 Centre St. was incorrectly characterized as being part of the Doña Betsaida Gutiérrez Cooperative. That name only refers to the rental housing cooperative in the building. The building itself does not have a name.