Proposed North End Starbucks Strongly Opposed at Public Meeting [Video]

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Opponents of a proposed North End Starbucks made a powerful showing at a nearly three hour public meeting on Thursday night. The issue at hand is a take-out license request by the coffee company under consideration by city officials at 198 Hanover Street, part of the Charter Realty development along Cross Street. The gathering was moderated by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services North End representative, Maria Lanza.

A consistent chorus representing many North End businesses, along with several residents, repeatedly expressed the view that Starbucks does not fit at the Gateway to the North End, a term referencing the stretch along Cross Street facing the Greenway between Hanover and Salem Streets. The proposal is being viewed as an attack on the neighborhood’s longstanding Italian heritage, recently portrayed in a short video, “The Last Little Italy” by a Starbucks opposition group.

“We don’t want Starbucks here as a corporate giant,” said John Picariello, owner of Modern Pastry that has been in the North End for 85 years. (39:00 in video).  Other establishments that vocalized opposition at the meeting included Caffe Paradiso, Monica’s, Caffe Dello Sport, Carmelina’s, Vito’s, V. Cirace & Son, Modern Pastry, Connah Store, Post Gazette, among others.

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Rendering of Starbucks and Citizens Bank at development by Charter Realty at Cross and Hanover Streets

Taking aim at Charter Realty was Damien DiPaola of Carmelina’s and Vito’s who attacked the proponents methods as part of the community process, “Why do you need a lobbyist to talk to our public officials?” (42:00 in video). Referencing Starbucks latest discrimination issues, he continued, “We don’t need sensitivity training. We learned that from our parents.” Criticizing the proposed Italian monument and use of the proponent’s marketing effort was Jeff Cirace saying, “You can schmooze the Italian community by calling it a piazza, when in reality it is outdoor seating for Starbucks.” (26:00 in video). In a similar context, Adriana DeStefano of Caffe Paradiso said, “We don’t need a monument to tell us who we are. This is in our heart. We are united in this one.” (1:47:00 in video)

Among the 100+ people packed tightly into the Nazzaro Community Center, there were no vocal supporters for the coffee chain in the crowd other than employees of Starbucks and the proponents at Charter Realty. Speaking on behalf of the companies were Karen Johnson of Charter Realty (presentation at 4:30 in video), Attorney Daniel Toscano representing Starbucks, and Irene Haley, Regional Director. The coffee company highlighted its ability to provide rest rooms along the Freedom Trail and be a viable long-term tenant providing employment opportunities.  Attendees asked the representatives how Starbucks would support the community with mixed comments regarding its nearest location on the North End waterfront at 2 Atlantic Avenue. Jorge Mendoza of Monica’s spoke against the nationwide corporate policies of Starbucks, including public restrooms. “How are you going to police the mezzanine and rest rooms? We have a heroin epidemic in Boston. We don’t want that at our Gateway. The piazza is going to be a hangout for drug users and homeless people,” said Mendoza (50:00 in video).

Despite significant opposition in 2016 to the glass and metal design of the one-story (plus mezzanine) building, Charter Realty has already received permits for core and shell construction. The Boston Redevelopment Authority, BRA (now, the Boston Planning & Development Agency, BPDA) has already approved the design as part of their small project review. A demolition delay by the Boston Landmarks Commission ended in June 2017. At the time, the BLC has requested the proponent consider a design more sensitive to the North End location but no adjustments were made. Construction is now expected to begin in the Fall 2018 with an opening in 2019.

Also discussed was the Citizens Bank proposal (14:15 in video) for a branch in one of the three business locations in the building. The third retail space at the corner of Salem Street does not yet have a proposed tenant but has been previously been used for eateries including Caffé Graffiti and Bread & Butter.

After the Big Dig, the brick plaza on Cross Street appeared to be a stellar business location and became known as the “Gateway to the North End” across from the Greenway. Not only does it feature the famous Freedom Trail path in front, but it also spans the busiest commercial areas in the North End, between Hanover and Salem Streets. Attorney Daniel Toscano highlighted the area has not been successful with past businesses. “It really has not met expectations since the Artery came down,” he said. Other than a juicery and nail salon (both of which are moving), most of the storefronts never gained much momentum. Proven businessman Nick Varano put his sandwich shop up for sale a few years after opening. Similarly, Frank DePasquale moved his pasta shop to Mechanic’s Court, off Hanover Street. Although daytime parking was eliminated from part of the plaza, plans by officials for permanent seating and tables never developed.

If approved, Starbucks will be the second national coffee chain on Cross Street, joining Peet’s Coffee that opened in the former Goody Glover’s space at the corner of Salem Street. Boston’s own Dunkin’ Donuts does not currently have a North End store, with its closest outlets at Harbor Garage and North Station. Property owners on Hanover and Commercial Streets have reportedly considered Dunkin’ stores, but withdrew plans rather than face potential backlash from neighbors. Starbucks already operates several nearby locations on the waterfront including Lewis Wharf (2 Atlantic Ave.), Long Wharf (Marriott), Rowes Wharf and is opening a new store with outdoor seating at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

Although there are no “anti-chain” zoning regulations, past proposals in the heart of the North End have been highly contested at neighborhood meetings and the stores have operated with mixed results. Most recently, a Pinkberry frozen yogurt franchise store closed after a failed three year run. Yet, there are still two 7-Eleven chains on Hanover Street and a CVS pharmacy.

The North End’s State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, spoke at the meeting and indicated he will take a position shortly after the community hearings. Similarly, representatives of Councilor Lydia Edwards and State Sen. Joe Boncore, said the officials are holding back on positions until after the meetings. City Councilor at-large, Michelle Wu, attended the meeting in person to listen. Upcoming public meetings will be held in the North End on July 9th at North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) and July 12th at the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA). (Meetings are 7pm at the Nazzaro Center, 30 N. Bennet St., see the Community Calendar for agendas and updates.)

Representatives said feedback from the meeting will be considered as the Starbucks C.V. license is considered at City Hall. Comments can also be sent to the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services Liaison, Maria Lanza, at maria.lanza@boston.gov.

View the video at the top of this post for the full 2 hour, 45 minutes public meeting.


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24 COMMENTS

  1. Why build a two-story building with no apartments on top? It’s not like we don’t have a housing crisis in this city or anything… Even the building next door is three stories.

    • More apts at $2000/mo for a 1 BR is not what the city needs. There is a glut of open apts in the North End and North Station.

    • Jared – Charter Realty states that their renovation of the block is constructing one story buildings with mezzanine areas, not two story buidings, which allows them to build “as of right”, not subject to neighborhood approval. Changing the original buildings’ profile from one to two or more floors would have required additional zoning variances, making it much more difficult to receive City approval. Pretty slick, eh???

  2. Very disappointing that the neighborhood strongly opposed the building’s design, as Matt’s video linked in the article demonstrates, yet it was approved anyway. That’s all anyone needs to know about the “process”. The same will most likely hold true about the Starbucks issue. The neighborhood will scream at the top of its lungs and be ignored in the end.

    • Exactly. My expectations are so low because there was so much opposition to the original plan. I am a next door neighbor and the height of the new building will completely block my view to the Greenway, etc. No sunlight anymore. Just a big structure that looks like it should be in the Seaport! This is not an up and coming neighborhood… this is an old neighborhood that should be celebrated for its heritage, and preserved. I agree the spaces needed an upgrade, but the answer was not the one that was proposed.

  3. This is going on right next to my apartment building. It is already a big mess. We really don’t need another coffee place to take away business from our North End coffee spots. I am dreading the construction for obvious reasons as a neighbor, but would truly dread Starbucks around the corner from me. There’s nothing Italian about Starbucks and their overtures to appeal to the community are gross.

  4. Join us at the next public meeting: Monday, July 9th at the Nazzaro Center where NEWNC will vote on this issue and others presented before us.

    John

  5. It’s so crowded in the Northend with visitors now. I don’t think it will effect the local businesses and will have handicap accesses that’s positive.

    • There are plenty of places with handicap access. They will hurt the local businesses AND they do not belong at the Gateway to the north end . A local business Dunkin Donuts was kept out of the North End at the other end of Hanover St for the same reasons.

  6. The Highest Bidder always wins. The rent is $30,000 a month, Nobody in the
    Neighborhood wanted to go for this rent & Starbucks did. Plain & Simple.
    Who the hell is anyone to complain about Starbucks. The No. End Residents
    didn’t want over 100 Restaurants in the Area Feeding more Rats, but we got them
    anyway. This is an extremely small Neighborhood swamped with Restaurants
    where there were never Restaurants before. The Residents had no say over
    the matter & neither should any Restaurants or Coffee Shops have a say over
    Starbucks. Live with it, the way we the Residents were foced to deal with all
    these Restaurants.

  7. Why was there not this type of public outrage when Peet’s opened at Cross and Salem. Peets=Starbucks in concept and coffee. Peet’s is basically at the same location as Starbucks except Starbucks will be at Hanover and Cross with a short block between the two businesses. In fact businesswise why does Starbucks want to open next to a Peet’s?

    • By the time the neighborhood found out about Peets it was TOO LATE. The owner of the building signed the lease without going through the neighborhood groups and since it was already zoned for a restaurant thee owner did not have to go before the city. People were pissed off but there was nothing they could do about it. Peets only has 7 stores in MA. ( I just checked their website) and two in Boston (North End and Beacon Hill). Starbucks has TEN stores within a HALF MILE of the North End. Yes Peets is a chain but it is not as large a corporation or as ubiquitous as Starbucks. ( and their coffee is better and they buy their pastries from a local Boston area bakery).

      • Is there empirical evidence that Peet’s has affected neighborhood businesses? The starnge thing about this is that Starbuck’s might be gutting it’s own franchise. The customer class that goes to Starbucks seem to be followers who prefer to pay $4 for a cup,of coffee rather than walk a few steps to buy the same thing at half the price. Besides Starbucks claims it is the most PC company in America.

        • Anyone who has had an espresso at Starbucks and at a NE café would take the extra steps down Hanover Street to get their coffee. Café frequenters I don’t think would switch and go to Starbucks.

  8. Why? Because there weren’t 6 other Peet’s already within a short walk from their NE location, unlike the proposed Starbucks. Plus Starbucks will soon be opening another store right across the Greenway in Faneuil Hall, with plans for outdoor seating.

  9. Unfortunately, we were out of town and couldn’t attend the meeting. Had we been there, I’d have asked why the developers, who say they love the neighborhood, don’t get on the roof over Citizens’ bank and paint over or remove the F-word graffiti on the wall of the adjoining building? Of course, the developers could reply that it was there before they bought the building, and strange that North Enders didn’t get rid of it long ago. They would also say the Starbucks building would make it vanish.

  10. Someone needs to point out how unprofessional some north end people behaved at this meeting. It’s very embarrassing that people chose to behave the way that they did instead of attempting to prove their point professionally. I don’t want Starbucks there either but there is no excuse to act in this manner. They embarrassed themselves and the rest of the neighborhood on television.

  11. It occurs to me that there is some irony in this whole debate: Just around the corner there is a Sushi/Asian venue with a “clubby” atmosphere called Crudo and a sports bar serving Mexican, Korean and traditional fare named Vito’s. Would it help if Starbucks changed its name to Stella-Cervo? 😉

Comments are closed.