Latino grocer plan is dead; doctors may move in

August 12, 2011
By

HYDE SQ.—Plans for a Latino grocery store at 363 Centre St. are dead, and the Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare (BIDHC) Jamaica Plain doctor’s office is looking to move in instead, according to the property’s owner.

The BIDHC move could come by year’s end, according to Richard Thal, executive director of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), which owns 363 Centre.

BIDHC Jamaica Plain currently operates in the Forbes Building senior housing at 545 Centre St. BIDHC spokesperson Rose Lewis said that the doctor’s office has no definite plan to move anywhere yet, citing “ongoing discussions” she declined to specify.

“We haven’t signed a lease,” Lewis said. “We are always looking at options in the market. But we have no plans yet.”

The idea for a Latino-specific grocer in the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation’s (JPNDC) building came out of the Whole Foods Market controversy. Chelsea-based Compare Supermarkets was planning on opening there this year. But one of the owners recently died, according to JPNDC Executive Director Richard Thal.

“That put their plans on hold,” Thal said. “They weren’t able to go forward with that.”

Compare management could not be reached for comment.

Whole Foods is replacing the former Latino-specific Hi-Lo supermarket at 415 Centre St. JPNDC and the pro-Whole Foods group JP For All were among the proponents of creating a new Latino-specific grocery store to replace Hi-Lo. But JPNDC’s plan to do just that at 363 Centre drew strong opposition from local bodega owners, business organizations and the Hyde Square Task Force as damaging to local businesses.

JPNDC is now talking with BIDHC about occupying about 4,500 square feet of the 7,500-square-foot space, Thal said. He said that would require a zoning variance for conditional use, meaning that a doctor’s office is not allowed under the current zoning.

Thal noted that BIDHC, which was formerly the independent Urban Medical Group, has been looking for new space for years. Urban Medical Group originally planned to be part of the recently expanded Mount Pleasant Home on S. Huntington Avenue until that deal fell through amid the BIDHC takeover.

“We’re delighted they’re going to stay and grow in the neighborhood,” Thal said of BIDHC.

Thal said that even with BIDHC, there is still room for two to three other businesses to operate in 363 Centre. JPNDC built that building, which has co-op housing above the business storefronts, and opened it this year.