Arroyo: Let’s take Whole Foods’ offer

May 13, 2011
By

John Ruch

HYDE SQ.—City Councilor Felix Arroyo is taking Whole Foods at its word.

In an April 28 letter to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s committee reviewing the grocery chain’s controversial move into JP, Arroyo calls for the entire community to seize the “opportunity to take Whole Foods Market up on their offer to be a good community partner.”

That means pressing Whole Foods to follow through on prior statements in support of local hiring and donations to “affordable housing” and “youth development and training” organizations, he writes.

“They say all their stores reflect the neighborhood they’re in,” Arroyo said in a Gazette interview. “[The letter] is me accepting what they say as truth.”

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz also sent a letter about Whole Foods to the same committee on the same day. But her letter and Arroyo’s were not coordinated, and Arroyo’s takes a different tone without a pro or con position.

Arroyo told the Gazette that he considers his letter “guidelines” for community-led negotiations—things that everyone could agree on, “when and if [Whole Foods] comes.”

The letter repeats his calls for Whole Foods to partner with local businesses to support them, and to mitigate parking and traffic issues. It also highlights the fact that Hyde Square is known as “Boston’s Latin Quarter” for its Latino culture and that Whole Foods should contribute to that.

Arroyo makes few specific requests in the letter. He told the Gazette that the community should fill out the details along with Whole Foods.

“Frankly, there are really more than two sides here,” Arroyo told the Gazette about the complexity of the Whole Foods debate. “I think proponents and opponents both want what’s best for Jamaica Plain,” he said, echoing the letter’s call for all JP residents to “come together to ensure that all of Jamaica Plain benefits from a Whole Foods Market in Hyde Square.”

The following is the full text of Arroyo’s letter:

Dear Chair Laferriere,

I want to thank you and all of the members of the committee and the Neighborhood Council for your dedication to our community. As a former member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, I know firsthand the many hours each of you devote to improving our neighborhood. Your service is greatly appreciated.

News of Whole Foods Market moving into the Hyde Square section of Jamaica Plain has caused much discussion and debate in our neighborhood. The views range from complete support to complete opposition to everywhere in between.

We must recognize that the arrival of Whole Foods Market brings some immediate positive impacts to the neighborhood including jobs, a larger variety of organic and naturals foods, and for property owners, a quick increase in property value.

However, along with these benefits come some concerns that need to be addressed. The same increase in property value can potentially lead to the rapid displacement of low- and moderate-income renters in the neighborhood. Many of these residents have worked hard to make Jamaica Plain the attractive and desirable neighborhood we are proud to call home. There are also concerns about local employment, the potential parking and traffic congestion, the impact on neighboring small businesses, opportunities for area youth, and preservation of the culture and identity of the community.

After many hours of reflection and conversations with my Jamaica Plain neighbors, I have come to the conclusion that there is an opportunity to take Whole Foods Market up on their offer to be a good community partner. The following are a few ideas, but in the end, I believe this should be an inclusive community-led effort in concert with Whole Foods Market.

1) Local Hiring—Whole Foods Market has stated there will be 100 jobs at the Whole Foods Market in Hyde Square. Of the 100 jobs, they stated to me that 75 are entry-level positions. Whole Foods could commit to hiring a significant percentage of local residents for all 100 jobs. By hiring locally, our community can benefit from the new jobs in the neighborhood.

2) Parking /Traffic—Whole Foods Market in Hyde Square will attract hundreds of customers that do not normally drive through Jamaica Plain. This will undoubtedly create parking and traffic issues. If Whole Foods hires locally, they can ensure that their workforce walk, bike or take public transit to work. Also, Whole Foods Market could play a role in solving traffic and parking concerns in the neighborhood.

3) Neighboring Small Businesses—There are numerous small and locally owned businesses in Hyde Square. By partnering with neighboring businesses, Whole Foods Market can help ensure that these businesses benefit from their arrival.

4) The Latin Quarter—Whole Foods Market has stated that every store is reflective of the neighborhood in which they do business. They are planning to move into an area commonly referred to as Boston’s Latin Quarter. Whole Foods Market can best reflect the Latin Quarter by offering traditional Latin foods and by helping to promote the many cultures that help make up Boston’s Latin Quarter.
Whole Foods Market has expressed willingness to financially support local efforts in communities they enter. I laud this position. I would urge Whole Foods Market to support two very important causes in our community.

1) Affordable Housing—There are great organizations in Jamaica Plain that work to create and preserve affordable housing. Whole Foods Market could partner with them and help ensure that Jamaica Plain remain the economically diverse community we all love.

2) Youth Development and Training—Whole Foods Market has shown willingness in word and in action to support youth development and training in our community. I am grateful for that support. Whole Foods Market can continue and expand its support of youth development and training in Jamaica Plain.

Our community is home to many residents and organizations that have dedicated themselves to making Jamaica Plain the great community it is today. It is my hope that Jamaica Plain residents, community based organizations, and Whole Foods Market will agree to come together to ensure that all of Jamaica Plain benefits from a Whole Foods Market in Hyde Square.

Sincerely,

Felix G. Arroyo?
Boston City Councilor At-Large

Best of JP 2014