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Neighborhood Supermarket’s 10th Anniversary: Here’s to the BRA in Action

Raise a glass to the 10th anniversary of a proposed supermarket for the North and West Ends.

Here, below,  from my old files, is a letter describing the need for an “affordable ” and “easily-accessible” supermarket. It was sent May 17, 2001, by Boston City Councillor At-Large Francis “Mickey” Roache to the BRA — with a copy to  Marcus Robert L. Beal, chairman of the Massachusetts Development Board.

He stated the “perfect location” would be the state-owned Saltonstall Building on Cambridge St., then being redeveloped. Naturally, no supermarket was located there. 

A year or so later, another perfect location was available, the ground floor of the Big Dig vent station at Haymarket Square (Parcel 7). Trader Joe’s was interested, and perhaps other companies, as well. But the building owners at the time, the Mass  Pike, wanted one single company to lease the entire empty half of the building —  the ground floor and office space above.  A brilliant business idea from the financial wizards who brought us the Big Dig. 

Of course, nothing happened. Then building was taken over by the state. Of course, the BRA got involved. There were neighborhood meetings and talk and meetings and talk and more meetings and more talk. Bids for development were sought and received. All were rejected.

But wait! A green “non-profit” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) organization came up with the idea that a  farmers’ market would be perfect for the space. The heck with the pushcarts. This would be high-class, organic, local products. This got the Mayor’s and Governor’s blessing, which, in Boston, is far more important than what neighborhoods need and want. Obviously, highly-paid market consultants conveniently forgot to inform the BRA and the state that local farmers don’t grow much in the winter, unless they have their farms in Florida or California. The farmers will have to sell a lot of cheese and fish and honey to pay any rent, assuming they are charged rent. And there is still no decision on what to put in the four stories of offices up above.

But all hope is not lost. The BRA has promised a supermarket in a high-rise planned  off the end of the Greenway, in the Bulfinch district. Nobody knows when it will be built. Or if it will be built. Anyone want to bet it we’ll be pushing shopping wagons in The Great Supermarket in Heaven before we get one for the North and West End?

Robert Skole
Commercial St.


2 Replies to “Neighborhood Supermarket’s 10th Anniversary: Here’s to the BRA in Action

  1. Thanks for the history lesson. I remember when the original developers of Battery Wharf proposed putting a Stop & Shop there and people were against it. Now we have a whole new crop of residents who rarely cook at home making the same tired argument about putting the local stores out of business with a supermarket and favoring Target over Stop & Shop and wanting an expensive "local " produce market to force out the Haymarket pushcarts. I think you might be right about the great supermarket in heaven.

  2. The BRA paid $10K for a study 10 years ago to determine the best location for an affordable, accessable supermarket that would service the North End, West End, and Beacon Hill. The study found that after the Saltonstall Building location was ruled out, the illegal parking lot at the Lindeman Center (Merrimac and Staniford Streets) would be the best location. When that was presented to him, the head of DCAM rejected that proposal without even blinking an eye. Then we were told that the rejection was due to the security risk of having delivery trucks so closely located to a court house.

    Those on fixed incomes have not had a cost of living raise in over two years, but that doesn't stop the cost of food from raising. Anyone who has shopped at Whole Foods (formerly Bread and Circus) can attest to that, and store coupons are useless since Whole Foods doesn't carry national brands.

    Many more of us will be pushing that grocery cart in the sky before we see an affordable supermarket in our neighborhood.

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