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C-Mart proposal creates spirited discussion in Quincy

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  March 12, 2013 02:16 PM

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Jessica Bartlett

(Above)Residents came out to speak in favor and against the proposal. Mo Chiu, who lives at 171 Atlantic Street, supported the proposal (Right) Quincy City Councilors, with the exception of Brian McNamee - who was barred from participating in discussion - listened to the pros and cons of the development.

The proposal is one both Quincy city councilors and neighbors are familiar with: an Asian grocery store proposed for a North Quincy neighborhood.

In 2009, councilors declined a similar project at the site in 2009 due to traffic concerns, barring property owner Miao Kun “Michael” Fang from outfitting the former Boston Gear Works building on Hayward Street with a 34,000-square-foot C-Mart.

However, a Land Court judge overturned the council’s decision in January 2012, sending the project back before decision makers.

The proposal has been downsized to 25,386 square feet, including 6,425 square feet for a distribution center, and 6,766 square feet in a two-story office space. Arguments for and against the project were Monday night, in the first of a two-part public hearing about the proposal, yet it is unclear how the council will decide this time.

“We would suggest that the population within a half-mile area of this location are 45 percent Asian. It’s the largest in the city of Quincy and it’s a store that will serve the needs of the Asian community,” said Edward Fleming, Fang’s attorney.

Fleming, with Fang’s traffic engineers from BSC Group, made the case again for the store, naming the hundreds of jobs the supermarket would bring for union construction workers and saying locals could also work in the grocery store.

As for traffic, engineers said Fang would add parking spaces and revise the traffic signals along the Hancock Street corridor, widening turning space within the lane.

The arguments were supported by a majority of the neighbors who attended the hearing, many of who said having the store in Quincy would be much more convenient for both them and their families than taking the Red Line into Chinatown.

“I think it’s a great proposal,” said Mo Chiu, who lives on Atlantic Street. “It's close to my home. I walk down there, it’s only 20 minutes and nearby…it’s a neighborhood supermarket.”

Dean Rizzo, president of the Quincy Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in support, saying that the supermarket was consistent with the changing character of the neighborhood, and would provide a commercial benefit and employment.

“The chamber is cognizant that the City Council can implement certain restrictions … unlike the various 'by-right' projects that could come before the city,” Rizzo said.

According to Fang's spokesman, Stephen Crawford said that in view of the zoning, a grocery store on the site would make the most sense.

"There are any number of things that could by right be located there -- a movie theater, a bus station, an auto body shop. So as people look at the impact of the grocery store, [there is a] relative ease that one could accommodate that impact."

Shirley Chen, who lives on Flynt Street, said many, like her mother, have to take the train to go to C-Mart in Boston. Chen also said traffic isn’t that big of an issue, and most likely wouldn’t be worsened as people would be walking to the site.

Helen Chu, who lives on Taber Street and owns a business close to the proposed C-Mart, hoped the new business would bring in more traffic for her restaurant.

Many also spoke in support of Fang as a business owner, pointing to his success with three Boston stores, and saying they were confident Fang would do what he could to improve traffic.

The arguments weren’t enough for many people who live next to the property, however. They showed up at Monday's meeting to oppose a grocery store on what they described as a narrow, already congested street.

“Right now we have too much traffic. What happens if we open a new market?” said Atlantic Street resident Maria Buccella, pointing out that the nearby Hannaford Supermarket already uses the small street with difficulty.

Bucella added that Quincy already has three Asian supermarkets, and that if elderly parents don’t drive, their children should take them.

Maureen Oldham, who lives on Atlantic Street, also said the supermarket was not a good fit. “It’s a danger for our children walking back and forth. There are too many accidents now by North Quincy High alone,” she said.

Ward 6 City Councilor Brian McNamee, who was barred from participating as a council member by the Land Court decision, spoke as a resident against the project.

“The simple truth is this is a large supermarket proposal,” he said. “The vast majority of Ward 6 residents do not want this supermarket.”

McNamee also warned councilors from taking Fang’s word that he would hire union construction workers, as construction permits for the site in the last six years have shown no union contractors employed.

“Don’t let him use you tonight like a hammer hitting an anvil,” he said.

Councilors will meet again on March 25 at North Quincy High to take further comments. Councilors requested additional information for the upcoming meeting and walked away with a packet of information to review and study.

“We don’t take this decision lightly,” Councilor Brian Palmucci said.

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