I continue to watch in amazement over the debate about Whole Foods. An investment in our neighborhood should be a good thing. The alternative could be an empty, blighted site. We should be happy they want to come to our neighborhood, employ people and be the good neighbor that they have the reputation of being. When I first came to JP in 1994, we had two major markets: Hi-Lo and Flanagan’s; both of these operators did very little to invest in their facilities, and, to my knowledge, their owners did little to support the neighborhood. We now have a full-line Stop & Shop, one which carries a pretty wide array of ethnic foods. As Whole Foods looks to come to JP, we can look forward to much greater access to different food products in the area. In addition, many people in JP currently leave the neighborhood to shop at Whole Foods; they will now be able to plow those dollars back into jobs in the neighborhood.
I do not buy the assertion that the arrival of Whole Foods is going to cause big changes to the real estate market. While a couple of articles from 2006 and 2007 might have made such a connection, let’s keep in mind that those were written during the height of real estate speculation that we are still trying to get over. Perhaps a more recent article or study might be more telling than this old data. To conclude that prices will spike in our already very pricey neighborhood and that we will have “rapid displacement” is speculation at best (“Senator: No Whole Foods without a housing fund,” May 13). While affordable housing is an issue, it is one that government and the not-for-profit sector should continue to address without adding special burdens and costs to businesses. As such, I do not think Whole Foods should be expected to create a housing trust to deal with this. They will already be facing a real estate tax bill that will likely be much higher than Hi-Lo’s; perhaps the city should direct those added taxes to these community needs if in fact some of the concerns about rents and taxes do come to pass.
I also support the community working with the leadership of Whole Foods to get the most community input on what would make their operation the best it can be for the neighborhood, but I think we need to keep our expectations of what is fair and reasonable in check. While I will miss the bargain bread and 10-for-a-dollar limes Hi-Lo had in the summer, I look forward to Whole Foods coming and being part of our community.