Biz Owner Says Deal Will Help Families Beyond Egleston Itself

Santo Ramírez, one of the store owners being evicted from City Realty property on Washington Street, shakes hands with supporters during a rally on Sept. 16, 2014.

Chris Helms

Santo Ramírez, one of the store owners being evicted from City Realty property on Washington Street, shakes hands with supporters during a rally on Sept. 16, 2014.

An Egleston Square business owner facing eviction said a tentative deal allowing him and five other entrepreneurs to stay would send a ripple of positive effects beyond Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.

The six remaining long-time tenants of 3152-3160 Washington St. — all Latinos — have reached a verbal agreement with new landlord City Realty that may allow them to continue operating in Egleston Square.

One of those business people is Santo Anibal Ramirez of Anibal Color Studio.

“Though it was just a verbal agreement, that’s how all resolutions start. They start off like that and get taken to paper,” said Ramirez, originally in Spanish.

When asked what this means to him and the community, Ramirez said, “This has more to do with our families and expands further than just the community of Jamaica Plain. It expands further than seven businesses potentially closing because all these businesses have families…”

One of Seven Businesses Has Moved

City Realty Group has been in negotiations with the small businesses and the community advocates helping them. The firm bought the property at a sidewalk auction in April.

The most visible tenant in the block is Pin Bochinche, a well-established Dominican restaurant with an eye-catching mural along Chilcott Place.

In the last month, business owners unwilling to accept the rent increases and contract terms originally demanded by City Realty have faced the threat of eviction. One of the original seven businesses, Yamel Beauty Salon, has already left Washington Street.

For the remaining six businesses, however, the deal isn’t sealed just yet. Lawyers need to go through some processes but the goal is to have long-term leases signed by Nov. 1, according to Luis Cotto, executive director of Egleston Square Main Street. Cotto was present at the negotiation table.

Jamaica Plain News has reached out to City Realty for further comment.

“I/we would be extremely happy if the end result was that they all get to remain. We’ll see what happens but I’m feeling hopeful,” said Cotto.

‘A Better Understanding’

Last Friday, City Realty Group met with the Egleston Square business owners, Alison Moronta of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp., Cotto, representatives from the Department of Neighborhood Development, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and the Office of City Councilor Matt O’Malley met at the YMCA.

The meeting was held to specifically discuss the Egleston based businesses on the verge of eviction.

According to Moronta, the City Realty representatives demonstrated more flexibility this time around and gained a better understanding of each business’s particular situation.

“Our people, our residents, business owners, groups and organizations care very much about our business diversity, and what we have and value. We had a strong sense of preservation, and we protect and have a strong voice when our people and businesses are mistreated or treated with unfairness,” said Moronta.

City Council Puts Spotlight on City Realty

There was also public pressure on City Realty in the form of a city council hearing largely aimed at alleged unfair practices by the company towards its renters.

District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson called a hearing to discuss concerns about gentrification and commercial landlords’ roles in displacement in Boston.

City Realty owners Fred Starikov and Steve Whalen attended the Monday hearing with an attorney and a property manager.

Whalen said that his company has been listening to the complaints and is making changes, such as hiring a community liaison and reviewing rent increases, according to the Bay State Banner.

With all said and done, those involved hope that a positive meeting is the first step in completing the leases.

“We all have great intentions to build a good relationship [with City Realty] moving forward. Especially we want to see property owners and landlords who can have good relationship with their tenants,” said Moronta.