Mayor, Task Force support grocer

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Hyde Square Task Force head Claudio Martinez both added their voices to the chorus supporting Whole Foods’ planned move to Hyde Square last week.

Martinez told the Gazette that the Task Force has also joined the Hyde/Jackson Business Association in opposing the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation’s bid to move a new Latino grocer into new retail space it owns at 363 Centre St. on the site of the former Blessed Sacrament Church.

“I think Whole Foods is great for the neighborhood. They have done a lot to work with the neighborhood,” Menino said at a roundtable discussion with journalists June 3.

Since news of its move to Hyde Square was announced in January, Whole Foods has made an over $8,000 contribution to HSTF and promised a free salad bar to the Curley School, among other things. The grocer has also been working with the city to hire former employees of Hi-Lo Foods, the market that used to be at the 415 Centre St. site that Whole Foods plans to move into.

“Like anything else, they could be good or bad for the neighborhood,” Martinez told the Gazette in a phone interview this week.

And, Martinez said, he wants to make sure Whole Foods has a positive impact.

At a community meeting hosted by Whole Foods June 2, Martinez encouraged Whole Foods officials to “be careful who you are negotiating with” about the controversial move to the square.

Speaking to the Gazette, he said the Task Force and the Hyde/Jackson Business Association plan to start taking a more prominent taking a leadership role in facilitating the store’s move to the square in the coming months.

Nelson Arroyo, president of the Hyde Square Task Force’s board of directors, is a Whole Foods employee.

Rafael Mejia, head of the Hyde/Jackson Business Association did not repond to Gazette requests for comment.

Martinez said it is not clear if that “track” will include public meetings. He said HSTF’s main goal will be to secure support from Whole Foods for the task force’s core mission of youth services and development.

Martinez said that public forums held by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council in February were a failure because they made no effort to single out the opinions of Hyde Square residents. Privileging those opinions is “pretty standard abutters rights,” he told the Gazette in a phone interview.

“We have already met with Whole Foods, and based on what we are seeing, we are going to stay on our own track with the Hyde/Jackson Business Association,” he said.

Martinez was dismissive of anti-Whole Foods activists. Anti-Whole Foods group “Whose Foods? has the right to do what they are doing” but the store’s move to the neighborhood is a likely inevitability and that “the time for debate is over,” he said.

Menino took a similar stance. Referring to the arrest of three protesters at a meeting Whole Foods hosted June 2, he said, “The folks who caused the problems were lashing out.”

In an apparent joke, the mayor suggested that the commotion at the meeting had been caused by agitators from outside the community. “We are trying to figure out if they are from Philadelphia, Chicago [or] Washington D.C.,” he quipped.


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