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JP group drafting deal to negotiate with Whole Foods

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  August 31, 2011 11:47 AM

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A neighborhood council committee is working with other Jamaica Plain groups to draft a community-benefits deal that will soon be presented to Whole Foods in an attempt to negotiate a collective set of requests varying neighborhood entities has of the company, which expects to open a Hyde Square store late this fall.

"We're really hoping that Whole Foods will want our input and our help," council member Jesse While, one of five members on the negotiating committee that formed last month, said at a meeting Tuesday night.

She said a document is being drafted in partnership with an array of other community agencies and organizations along with input from recommendations within a 69-page report concerning Whole Foods' arrival to the neighborhood. A different, now-dissolved, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council sub-committee finished that report earlier this summer.

Of the many that have been contacted, three organizations have officially said they're committed to the process of drafting a deal with Whole Foods: the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, the Ecumenical Social Action Committee and the Boston Tenants Coalition, council members said.

Most other groups, according to White and fellow committee member Pamela Bender, are still reviewing the idea internally and considering joining the effort.

White said the group has coined the deal it is drafting to be a "good neighbor agreement," and is no longer calling it a community benefits agreement because, "We want to be good neighbors to Whole Foods. We want Whole Foods to be good neighbors to us. We want to move forward," from the past, contentious debate.

The negotiating team has a meeting scheduled with Whole Foods officials. Council members and a company spokeswoman each declined separately to disclose that meeting's date.

Whole Foods spokeswoman Heather McCready said Wednesday, "We're happy to meet with them to discuss," the earlier ad-hoc report and the good neighbor agreement that's in the works. She said the company has not received a copy of either.

Earlier this spring, the council passed by a one-vote margin a measure to voice publicly that “Based on what we know now, we are concerned that Whole Foods is not a good fit for Hyde Square.”

Whole Foods' arrival and its predecessor's closure, first announced in January, have been a topic of continued, intense debate.

Five members of the 20-member neighborhood council volunteered to form the negotiating team: Area C member Karley Ausiello, At-large members Pam Bender and Francesca Fordiani, chair and Area C member Andrea Howley, and Area B member Jesse White.

Another reminder from the council meeting, the group will hold its biennial membership election on Sept. 24 and is seeking volunteers to help with that.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.

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