Little Italy is a symbol of Italian culture and flavor, no different than many neighborhoods in Boston. Look at neighboring Chinatown, people flock there and here for the same reason: to taste a little Italian or Chinese food and feel the culture, not to sip a cup of coffee from a place its residents will rarely use. A Starbucks at Cross Street will definitely eat into the North End coffee shops’ profits, but more importantly begin to chip away at the overall Italian culture and flavor of this neighborhood developed by the local effort of its residents.
Neighborhoods in Boston have always had their local flavor and these large chains are here for the money and nothing else, or they would stay away. Neighborhoods around central Boston are seeing people pushed out because of the financial pressure being exerted by constant gentrification in their city.
In the North End’s case, Starbucks in particular would add no ambience to what’s left of what used to be a very strong arrival point for fresh Italian immigrants and culture. It would harm the neighborhood as the first chipping stone to turn the North End into an adjunct of the Financial District, which has dozens of Starbucks within a mile of the proposed location.
In doing a little research through Google, I found that the Little Italy in Providence, Rhode Island has no Starbucks in their area, and even here in next door Chinatown there is no Starbucks. The Chinese and even the Irish community in South Boston are under pressure to save their neighborhoods from rising rents and property values. Clearly this is evident here in the North End.
What’s left of our former Italian neighborhood spoke out in unison at the abutters’ meeting against the proposal because of its intrusion into our culture and financial welfare. This proposal does not fit in our neighborhood.
North Enders must unite to have a chance to defeat this corporate well-connected conglomerate giant. They should petition the State House for protection and create a “Historic District” to protect themselves from future proposals that defeat this area’s ambience and history. The petition should ask the State to give the neighborhood this parcel to enhance in our own way. A historical theme could be created for the plot, and perhaps a much-needed war memorial for its veterans could be built. Commercial use for this plot should be excluded.
Call your representatives. The fight is yours.