Gonzalez Provides Core Empowerment Update at JPNC

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) held their monthly meeting on October 22 at the Farnsworth House, where they heard presentations from a BU professor regarding a response to the Merrimack Valley natural gas disaster, and Tomas Gonzalez, COO of Core Empowerment, as well as committee updates.

Core Empowerment is a recreational marijuana dispensary that will open at 401A-405 Centre St. Gonzalez had said back in January when he first presented to the JPNC that he hoped to open this October, but they are now behind schedule.

 Gonzalez said that it could be another six months before they get the green light from the state to open, but this is not definitive. The 6,000 square foot facility can accommodate 230 people total, but Gonzalez said there will not be that many people in there at one time. The facility will operate on an appointment-one basis for the fist month, as originally agreed upon.

Parking and traffic continues to be an overall problem for the Hyde Square area, and Gonzalez said that Core Empowerment has met with merchants in the neighborhood, and the Boston Transportation Department has said they will do a traffic audit, he added. He said he’s also going through a process with the merchants in Hyde Square and the city about signage for parking in the area.

 “We’re still pursuing the shared valet for the neighborhood,” Gonzalez said, which is something he promised the community when he first proposed the facility several months ago.  He said he is in “ongoing conversations” with area businesses about collaborating on a shared valet service for patrons. He said that there is a permit into ISD for patrons to use the parking lot on Estrella street from 9:00am-5:00pm.

In order to be allowed to open, Core Empowerment must offer at least twelve parking spaces, but Gonzalez said he wants to hold up his commitment to the community to offer more.

Gonzalez said he hasn’t started hiring yet since he does not know when he will be able to open, but he has reached out to JPNDC, Urban Edge, Academy Homes, and Bromley Heath to do a series of job fairs. “We’re going to hire overall about 25 people,” Gonzalez said.

Cannabis delivery is something that is up-and-coming in the state, and Gonzalez was asked how this might affect the neighborhood with Core Empowerment. Gonzalez said that they do not currently plan on doing deliveries out of this location in the foreseeable future, but they “may be having that discussion down the road.”

For now, conversations are ongoing regarding the traffic and parking, and Gonzalez and his team are waiting for approval to open.

Public Service Committee

JPNC Michael Reiskind gave the Public Service Committee update, and said the committee talked a lot about the Faulkner Hospital proposal, specifically the transportation plan. The hospital has proposed to add 78 beds to the hospital, as well as redoing the two parking garages and adding a curb cut off of Allandade St.

“We’re looking at transit,” Reiskind said. He said that the hospital will offer 50 percent subsidized MBTA passes for its employees, but Reiskind said he’d like to see them offer fully subsidized passes. Additionally, the hospital is currently served by the 38 bus, which does not have Sunday service.

The JPNC also voted to approve a change to the liquor license for the new Eugene O’Neill’s at 3700 Washington St. There are no neighborhood-restricted licenses, so one will be purchased from the shuttered Whisky Saigon near Emerson College on Boylston St. It will be sold to Cill Dara, Inc. doing business as Eugene O’Neill’s. All other elements will remain the same: Melissa Hunt as manager, 1:00am closing hour, and entertainment license for four TVs, trivia, karaoke, and up to three live performers.

Parks + Committee

Esther Tutella-Chen, Chair of the Parks + Committee, reported that the committee will be partnering with JP Shines on November 2 for their daffodil planting party. The Council and neighbors also discussed dog parks and the need for one in the neighborhood.

Education Committee

Education committee Chair Trevor Wissink-Adams reported that on Monday, November 25, Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and her team will be coming to the English High School  to talk about Build BPS and any concerns residents from the neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and West Roxbury may have.

 He added that the committee has been making progress on its Mobile Welcome Center initiative, which will offer parents a chance to register their child for BPS in the evening or on a weekend, since that is not currently an option. Wissink-Adams said that BPS is interested in making this happen possibly in January.

Zoning Committee

The  Zoning Committee heard three proposals this month. At 32 Jamaica St., the proponent wants to rebuild an enclosed porch that fits within the footprint of the existing porch, which was approved by the Council.

At 26 Jamaica St., it was proposed to confirm occupancy as a single-family dwelling and add bump-out additions on the front and side, expand the second floor above the bump-outs in connection with renovating the bathroom and other interior renovation. This was also approved by the Council.

At 9-11 and 13-15 Catherine St., there was a much more contentious proposal to construct two townhouses with a shared wall on the same lot. Each townhouse would have three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms , a first-floor garage, parking for two cars, and a roof deck. The committee reported that there was a lot of opposition from the community regarding this project, specifically regarding density, excessive Floor Area Ratio, height, and massing of the building. The building is currently vacant and used to be a halfway house, according to a community member in attendance. The Committee had offered the developer a chance to defer, but they insisted that the Committee vote on the project that night, so they decided to deny the project. The full Council took that recommendation and also denied the project.

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