In support of JP’s gentrification

May 27, 2011
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The opposition to Whole Foods moving into the former space occupied by Hi-Lo Foods is extremely shortsighted. The recent vote against Whole Foods by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (“JPNC: Whole Foods is not a good fit” March 18) illustrates the exceedingly parochial view of this council.

In that article, JPNC member Jesse White states that “Whole Foods will speed up gentrification, increase business and residential rents and displace low-income neighbors.” These are the very reasons why Whole Foods should be welcomed to the neighborhood. Low real estate values and low-income populations do little to boost property values or provide a more viable tax base for the city. For too long, inner-city areas of Boston and other major cities across the nation have been low-income havens that threaten the long-term viability of local and state economies. Demographic and economic analysis of parts of Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester provide far too many examples of low-income areas that are aesthetically and economically blighted, not to mention more crime-ridden when factoring in the correlation of poverty with crime. JPNC member David Baron provided a more enlightened view: “I am very concerned about Knapp Foods deciding to keep that space vacant…If the alternatives are no development, no jobs, and a big ugly storefront, it’s a different calculus.”

Given the JPNC’s recent vote, hopefully Whole Foods can arrange for its relocation into Hyde Square in such a way as to avoid licensing or zoning variance requests that would necessitate appearing before the JPNC. Its best course of action would be to make no changes to the site requiring such variances, until after they it has officially established its presence.

Whole Foods regional president Laura Derba indicated she has received much support from the JP community. Those same supporters should contact the Mayor’s Office to recommend his administration’s full support, citing, among other positives, the increased tax revenue the city will reap from another Whole Foods market within city limits. Increased neighborhood real estate values will create a ripple effect of increased assessments and property tax revenue for the city. David Taber’s article (“Whole Foods CEO: Store raise home prices,” March 18) is extremely encouraging in this respect.

Let’s welcome the opportunity to bring this market to Jamaica Plain with its positive impact on real estate market values. A rising tide lifts all boats, to use an old cliché. Maintaining the “diversity” of Jamaica Plain should not be an excuse for the preservation of a lower-income status quo. Higher-end stores and residential gentrification of Jamaica Plain provide more tax revenues, which in turn can fund more programs and services for the community: a model for other aesthetically and economically blighted areas of Boston.

Glenn Inghram
Jamaica Plain

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