WASHINGTON ST.—Family Dollar, a national discount-goods chain, aims to open its first Jamaica Plain store at 3383-3389 Washington St., next year. But about 30 residents roundly opposed the plan for its looks and competition with local businesses at an Oct. 9 community meeting.
“This is Anyplace, U.S.A.,” said resident Bill Reyelt of the design at the meeting at Doyle’s Cafe. Reyelt, who last year organized a high-profile workshop of City and business leaders to improve Washington Street’s “livability,” drew loud applause for suggesting a mixed-use housing/retail building instead. He called the plan a “throwaway building” inspired by “suburban car culture.”
Peter McLoughlin and Edward “Teddy” Ahearn of Boston Property Development, which would construct the store and have Family Dollar as a tenant, said they are not opposed to mixed-use if the finances work and the store agrees. McLoughlin added that Family Dollar looks to him like a “positive step” in improving the street.
Rob Yates, Family Dollar’s regional vice president for store operations, said at the meeting that the chain is generally open to making stores look better, including with murals and windows.
The site, which covers three parcels, is currently vacant. It includes the former Royal Fried Chicken restaurant, a long-shuttered nightclub and a parking lot.
McLoughlin, Ahearn and another partner, Robert Wallace, have owned the site for three years. Three different owners of the failed chicken eatery have come and gone since then, McLoughlin said. A proposal to put a new convenience store there was opposed by the community for competition with other businesses, he said.
The Family Dollar would be 9,000 square feet, with 18 parking spaces along its side and back. The area is zoned Light Industrial and the store would require “conditional use” permission from the City under that zoning.
The plan also does not meet City codes for sufficient parking, parking lot design and landscaping. The developers dispute the parking issues but say they can tweak them.
North Carolina-based Family Dollar has several Boston locations, including in Roslindale and West Roxbury. It is known for selling variety goods, including household items and groceries, at bargain prices—usually not more than $30 for any item, Yates said.
The chain is doing booming business in the struggling economy and is expanding rapidly, according investor reports on its website at corporate.familydollar.com. But, according to news reports, Family Dollar is also facing resistance from communities in such places as Atlanta that cite fears of lowered property values and increased traffic.
“In this economy, when it seems like saving money is the new normal, our value and convenience are a welcome addition to many communities,” Family Dollar spokesperson Josh Braverman told the Gazette. “It is unfortunate that some communities do not understand our brand and our promise to the community. We operate small stores that are often the hub of a community and we work hard to build partnerships in the neighborhoods we serve.”
He said Family Dollar stores usually have eight to 10 employees and that the chain aims to hire people from the community.
There likely will be another community meeting about the plan before its zoning Board of Appeal hearing, said Jullianne Doherty, the Mayor’s Office representative for JP.