Latino grocer eyes 225 Centre, draws protest

JACKSON SQ.—A Latino grocery store chain is in discussions with the developers of the new building going up at 225 Centre St. about opening a store there. The Hyde/Jackson Square Business Association (HJSBC) is reportedly protesting the plan because a Latino grocery chain could compete with local bodegas.

Representatives of developers The Community Builders (TCB) repeatedly told the Gazette that they are talking to a “locally owned grocer” about renting a 10,000-square-foot space. But, pressed for details by the Gazette, project manager Noah Sawyer acknowledged that the possible tenant is not local to Jackson Square, but instead is a Latino grocery chain that “has a couple of other stores in the Boston area.” TCB is not naming the business and no lease is signed.

“We think the businesses we are looking at will be a benefit to the community,” Sawyer said when asked about concerns that an outside chain store would compete with existing Latino markets in the neighborhood.

The business association reportedly has a different opinion. HJSBC president Rafael Mejia Jr., the owner of Evelyn’s Market, led a group of small business owners who protested the plan at last month’s meeting of the Jackson Square Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), a City-appointed group reviewing redevelopment in the area.

CAC chair Rodney Singleton said the business owners were “visibly upset” about the possibility of a Latino chain store coming to the neighborhood, and also that they had heard about it only as a rumor, not directly from developers.

Mejia did not respond to Gazette questions. Last year, he and his association protested a similar plan to bring Latino chain grocer Compare Supermarkets to the former Blessed Sacrament Church site in Hyde Square, which ended up not happening.

Singleton said the CAC has long-standing concerns about possible chain stores because it has heard that the 225 Centre developers are asking for about $40 per square foot in rent. That rate would be on the high end of the market.

Garrett did not confirm or deny that amount, but said that rents for specific spaces “will vary based on a variety of factors.” Those include size and location in the building, the length of the lease, and who covers build-out costs.

Sawyer said the developers are looking at other retail-oriented tenants for the other 5,000 square feet of commercial space in the building. He said certain types of businesses will not be allowed to rent space, including liquor stores and bars.

The 225 Centre building, going up next to the Jackson Square T Station, also will contain apartments. Slated to open next summer, it is the first part of the redevelopment of 11 acres of Jackson Square property by a team of developers.

The 225 Centre project is being developed by two companies, The Community Builders (TCB) and Mitchell Properties, both headed by Jamaica Plain resident Bart Mitchell.

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