Whole Foods and community change: Prince George's County vs. Boston
Image: Closed Hi-Lo Foods Supermarket, Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Boston. Wikimedia photo.
I've written about the issue in the Route 1 corridor in Riverdale Park, Prince George's County, where a proposal to create a mixed use development that would include a Whole Foods Supermarket is looked askance in some quarters because of the impact on traffic on the relatively constrained Route 1, and because the development would be in an area where there is absolutely no retail--it's mostly residential with some large commercial office sites. The Post has a piece about it today, "A Whole Foods in Prince George's?," and has editorialized against "nimbyism" over the plans for the site. See the blog entry, ""Nimbyism" on commercial corridors in DC and Prince George's County (+ Fort Meade)."
But there is no question that in Prince George's County there isn't opposition to Whole Foods per se. Whether or not people are happy about the proposed site, they want the company to locate in their county as an indicator that it is affluent and "deserving" of upscale retail.
In the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, plans to bring a Whole Foods Supermarket to a site, replacing a relatively low brow Hi-Lo Supermarket (which closed independently of decision making or actions on the part of Whole Foods) have been opposed in some quarters because they see the replacement of a relatively low cost supermarket provider with a high cost supermarket as an indicator of gentrification and neighborhood change and deleterious to lower income residents and small and local businesses, especially Hispanic food retailers. See "JP group drafting deal to negotiate with Whole Foods" from the Boston Globe Your Town blog.
Interestingly, not unlike what has happened in DC over Walmart, there is an initiative to try to create a "community benefits" agreement with Whole Foods, although it is contentious, as WF has vociferous supporters and opponents ("Police arrest 3, abruptly end Whole Foods first meeting with Jamaica Plain residents" from the Boston Globe), and the neighborhood association board voted 8-7 to oppose the store.
But for the most part Whole Foods as a use is "matter of right" (replacement of a grocery store by another grocery store), providing little leverage to the community for bringing Whole Foods to the table to make a deal, because nothing prevents WF from opening a store.
Like the proposed community benefits agreement for Walmart in DC put to Walmart in DC by the RespectDC Coalition, one could argue that there is a lot in the proposed benefits document that isn't relevant to the mission of Whole Foods (e.g., providing funds for low income residents to buy food at farmers markets), but the document produced, Ad-hoc Whole Foods Committee Report to full JPNC, June 28, 2011, by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council on the issue is impressive--with more footnotes than the document I helped produced on the Walmart issue for ANC4B (the 4B document didn't discuss community benefits agreements but did discuss negative economic impacts and how to mitigate them).
Part of the reason that sectors of the Jamaica Plain community believe they should be able to get community benefits is because in a different situation in the early 1990s, the redevelopment of a neighborhood brownfield site including a Stop & Shop Supermarket, did include a $500,000 "trust" fund to support community activities, including mitigation of negative impacts on small businesses (although no money ended up being paid out for that purpose). See "JP’s last supermarket war" from the Jamaica Plain Gazette, which discusses the previous project, how the developer brought in as partners two local nonprofits and provided the trust fund.
But the situations are different (cf. the blog entry, "Not understanding what triggers a community benefits process").
1. National benefits;
2. City-wide benefits;
3. Building-specific design improvements;
4. Neighborhood benefits within a geographically defined area such as an ANC; and
5. Micro-benefits within a couple block radius of the project
and a method for monetizing the "relief" granted to the property owner.
Constructing or renovating a building to make it environmentally sustainable can be a daunting task for any owner, but Jamestown Properties, a German commercial real estate investment company, has decided it will go “green” in nearly its entire $4 billion portfolio of buildings, all located in the United States.
The overhaul involves fixes as simple as installing low-flow water fixtures and as complex as revamping heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Jamestown expects to recoup costs through energy savings, the ability to charge higher rents and higher resale values.