We all know that Whole Foods is coming to JP. And we know that the store is likely to have a big impact on the neighborhood—some of it good and some bad. We will have another place to buy healthy food and we will have more traffic. The new store is likely to contribute to gentrification that has been an ever-increasing presence, and pressure, on our neighborhood for over a decade.
As longtime residents who have lived in JP over 30 years each, we have witnessed huge changes that went with $100 per month rents to one of the “hottest” neighborhoods in Boston. We believe that it is reasonable and appropriate for Whole Foods to enter into a formal community benefits agreement as they prepare to open their new store here.
Whole Foods is a large, multi-national corporation that will make a large profit in JP. Most of that money will not stay in our community. We believe it is important that Whole Foods invests some of those profits back into JP. While it is fairly easy to ask locally owned businesses to contribute to community-based activities and groups, it can be quite complicated to get support from a large corporation. That’s why a formal process, such as a community benefits or some other type of agreement, makes sense. There was a community benefits agreement when Stop & Shop came to Jackson Square, and Somerville has a community benefit agreement with IKEA, which is coming to Assembly Square.
JP will continue to grapple with issues such as jobs for youth, affordable housing and healthy food for everyone. Every year the city, state and federal governments contribute fewer resources to address these problems. Whole Foods says it wants to be a good neighbor to JP, so we think it only makes sense to ask our new neighbors to help out.
Tom Kieffer, Susan Moir and Sue Naimark