The battle is continuing between El Embajador Dominican Restaurant, which is located at 3371 Washington St., and its landlord, City Realty, over lease negotiations.
The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) is saying that City Realty is attempting to “flip” the property, by selling for a 80 percent profit on what City Realty originally paid for the property and going back on a promise to help the business relocate. JPNDC has been providing anti-displacement assistance to El Embajador, including help in negotiations.
But a spokesperson for City Realty says that presents a “distorted view of the situation” and that it is “disingenuous” to portray the originally purchase price as the only costs associated with a property.
City Realty originally planned to use 3371 Washington St. and several nearby parcels for a development that would have been 63,785 square feet with 58 residential units and two commercial spaces. One building at 3371-3375 Washington St. would have been comprised of 2 studio units, 19 one-bedroom units, and 12 two-bedroom units. The second building’s address would have been 197-201 Green St., and would have included 6 one-bedroom units, 4 two-bedroom units, and 15 three-bedroom units. But City Realty pulled the project notification form (PNF) the Boston Planning and Development Agency.
“The reason we pulled the PNF was that we were having a really tough time coming up with a project design that would be feasible on the site while still conforming to the new guidelines of Plan JP/ROX,” said City Realty spokesperson Clifford Kensington. “Our original filing met most, if not all, of the requirements of the study at the time of filing. However, when the final draft of JPROX came out, it featured numerous last minute changes that we had not anticipated based on the previous versions and dozens of JP/ROX meetings we attended. After digging into the final draft, we saw how difficult it would be to make this larger project fit the study, we withdrew the project and went back to the drawing board.”
Kensington went on to say, “Now, after months of analyzing different variations, it became apparent that the dimensional and affordable requirements of the study make it too difficult to do one large project and it would be better able to conform as two smaller projects. This meant we had to sell one of the sites, as any efforts by us to develop both sites would be treated as one project and subject to all the same higher density penalties.”
City Realty plans to redevelop the Green Street location, while selling the Washington Street properties that include El Embajador and De Chain Auto Service. City Realty has been in lease negotiations with the two businesses for more than a year, and both businesses were served notices of termination of their leases late last year and were facing the prospect of eviction. But City Realty reached an agreement with De Chain that allows the auto shop to stay put until 2019. El Embajador is still without a lease.
JPNDC sent on a statement earlier this month saying that City Realty is attempting to “flip” the Washington Street properties by selling them for $ 2.9 million, having initially paid $1.6 million.
“The proposed sale puts a 27-year-old business, El Embajador Restaurant, back at square one after months of negotiations,” the statement says. “City Councilor Matt O’Malley and City of Boston officials have convened all parties and have advocated for a fair and constructive discussion on behalf of the business.
“JPNDC has been providing anti-displacement assistance to El Embajador since April 2016 and the tenant organization City Life/Vida Urbana has also been involved, leading a rally just before Thanksgiving that attracted 300 marchers and called attention to City Realty’s tactics in a number of local properties with residential, artist and commercial tenants.”
The statement goes on to say that City Realty made a verbal commitment to Ramona Alvarez and Juan Tejeda, owners of El Embajador, that it would help the business relocate to another local City Realty-owned site so they could stay in operation.
“How is it possible that the sale of a building in Boston lets City Realty more than double its profits and at the same time displace a business that has contributed so much to the local economy and culture?” asked Alvarez in the statement.
JPNDC Small Business Services Director Carlos Espinoza-Toro said in the statement that the proposed sale is “a blatant example of the rampant speculation taking place in Boston.”
Asked to respond to JPNDC statement, Kensington said that it “provides such a distorted view of this situation.”
“To address their first point, while it is true that we have listed the property for sale at a price that is higher than what we paid for it, it is disingenuous to portray the initial purchase price as the only costs associated with owning a property,” he said “Given that the JPNDC is one of the largest real estate developers in the neighborhood, I have no doubt they understand this but are choosing to ignore it to support their narrative.”
He went on to say that City Realty was “very motivated” to work out a deal with the restaurant.
“As the selective timeline/narrative JPNDC provided to you hints at, we offered them a relocation to a brand new space, at the exact same rent, right next door to their location, with offers of free rent to cover the expenses/hassle of moving,” said Kensington. “We left that offer on the table for over a year. We finally had to offer that empty space to a new tenant, after El Embajador refused to move forward and we couldn’t keep the new space vacant any longer. We found a great local family that is opening up a business, Santia’s Bakery, in that space very soon.”
He said that their efforts continued until “it was made known to us that the business owners were insisting on the ability to sell this significantly below-market lease to a new buyer so they could retire. This was not at all in the spirit of the discussions we had and not something we had any interest in pursuing.”