The North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) discussed the pros and cons of a Target P-Fresh store versus a Stop & Shop supermarket at this week’s meeting. Trinity Financial is the new designated builder for the new development in the Bulfinch Triangle. As discussed earlier in the week at the Neighborhood Council meeting, the developer is weighing its options for an anchor tenant to fill the lower floors of its “One Canal” rental housing project between the North End and West End neighborhoods.
Many residents in the neighborhood have long advocated for a full-service, affordable supermarket like Stop & Shop within walking distance of the North End, West End and Beacon Hill neighborhoods. But some at the meeting were concerned about the local North End markets and shops that might suffer from a full-service supermarket in close proximity, favoring the Target proposal.
Sarah Barnat represented Trinity Financial Group, the developer that built the adjacent Archstone Avenir on Canal St. with 241 rental units. Ms. Barnet said that Trinty wants the West End to be the “next great neighborhood in Boston.” The previous developer was looking to build office space and that was realistically going to take 5-7 years in this economy. Trinity believes rental housing can be financed immediately with a commitment by an anchor tenant that “will make the numbers work.”
Construction could begin as soon as the Summer of 2011 on the site, known as Parcel 2A/2B, bound between N. Washington St. and Canal St., between the North End and West End neighborhoods. The proposed development height will be 146 feet (higher than the 120 foot high adjacent Avenir) with 230-275 rental apartments, including about 35 affordable units. The parcel is complicated by its location over the Green & Orange lines, eliminating underground parking options. Trinity said they have overcome that obstacle.
Ms. Barnat said that no commitments have been received and Stop & Shop is still “top on the list,” but the developer is considering “all its options” and most notably, a proposal by Target. Using its P-Fresh concept, Target believes it could fill in 90% of what a full service supermarket would offer. Trinity is also considering supplementing the lack of a deli and fresh goods with smaller ground floor stores.
Target would take up nearly 100,000 square feet on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the development with food and its typical dry goods (everyday products, health & beauty, etc.). The question remains whether they can produce a full-service grocery store? For example, instead of a butcher, they have packaged meats. There is no bakery or deli, although there would be fruit and dairy.
The Stop & Shop option would be on one floor with 45,000 square feet, about the same size as the Star Market at the Prudential. For comparison, the Beacon Hill Whole Foods is 36,000 square feet.
Interestingly, the NEWRA attendees showed significant concern for the North End’s local markets and shops. This issue was not raised at the NEWNC meeting earlier in the week. While a majority of those that spoke at the meeting thought Stop & Shop was still the way to go, there was some interest in the advantages of the Target concept, primarily to retain North End businesses.
Here are some quotes from the audience:
Jim Welch expressed “concern about the North End shops and businesses.” Ms. Barnat agreed by saying, “that fish market may not make it if you have a full service supermarket.”
David Kubiak countered, “That train left the station 11 years ago. We need an affordable, full-service supermarket for the West End, North End, Beacon Hill and commuters at North Station. I have never heard a business owner object to this plan. We need to stick to the program. We need a full-service supermarket.” Turning his attention to Ms. Barnat, Kubiak continued to question the Target proposal. “You need to convince us of your plan and you only have a month.”
Nancy Caruso said she has spent the last 11 years on the Supermarket Committee. “We went through all the chains. We selected Stop & Shop. They want to be here. Why all of a sudden is there this change?” Ms. Barnat responded that Trinity did not “come into this with Stop & Shop. We do not have a commitment letter from Stop & Shop.”
Barnat implied the economics of Stop & Shop supermarket may not be favorable to them. “There is a reason why this hasn’t happened in 11 years. “We need to know we have a bankable project.” She implied that supermarkets generally do not pay high lease rates.
Nikki from Prince Street asked “Who makes the food for Target? Is the food healthy?”
Stuart Rosenberg from the office of City Councilor Felix Arroyo said, “the Councilor wants to see something go up there with neighborhood support. Target doesn’t seem to have that support. There needs to be a special meeting if Target comes under serious consideration. NEWRA has more people at its meetings than all other neighborhood groups combined. We don’t want to jam this through.”
Bob Venuti asked if this the only site they are considering, given the recent progress for development on Parcels 7 & 9. Ms. Barnat indicated that Trinity is not interested in Parcels 7 or 9.
NEWRA Secretary Katie Kulikowski said her family is involved in a local market and that if a full-service supermarket opens, more stores will go away. “If a butcher closes and a supermarket opens, no one will ever open another butcher.”
Sean, a North End resident, said, “We need to support our local stores. Even if a supermarket opens, residents will still support the small North End shops.”
I asked whether a combination of both a Stop & Shop and Target was being considered. Ms. Barnat answered that a combination is off the table due to physical complexities on the site.
A resident named Mark said that he likes the Target concept because “the North End local shops can fill in the 10% that the Target store will not provide.”
Ms. Barnat thanked the group for their input. She has meetings with both stores in the next week as well as the North End/West End Supermarket Committee. She will return to NEWRA in the near future to provide another update.
President Mark Paul reminded members that October 14th is NEWRA’s annual election meeting, 7:00 pm at the Nazzaro Center. Victor Brogna is chair of the nominating committee and will present a slate of nominees for election to the five officer positions, including President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary and Sgt-At-Arms. Under NEWRA’s by-laws, Mark Paul cannot run as President after serving for two years. It is widely expected that current Vice-President, Stephanie Hogue, will run to be President of the private, non-profit residents’ association. Nominations will also be accepted from the floor. Refreshments will be served.
More information on NEWRA can be found at www.NEWRA.org.