Six Latino-owned businesses on the brink of having to leave Egleston Square because of rent hikes appear to have a deal that will keep them in place.
Luis Cotto, executive director of Egleston Square Main Street, said Wednesday that City Realty's Fred Starikov has tentatively agreed to reasonable rent increases for six of the remaining business at 3152-3160 Washington St. Cotto said that City Reality held a four-hour meeting with the community. The meeting, which comes after months of negotiations, was brokered in part by City Councilor Matt O'Malley's office and led by Alison Moronta, small business director for the JP Neighborhood Development Corp.
"City Reality realized they were being shut out of other projects" by the way they mishandled Egleston Square, said Pablo Calderon, chairperson of the Egleston Square Neighborhood Assoc.
The news about 3152-3160 Washington came during a Wednesday meeting of the revamped neighborhood association. A rainy, dismal night in which Egleston saw damage from at least one fallen tree, did nothing to stop the meeting.
"We are back again to focus on the mission of our neighborhood," said Calderon.
On the agenda were follow-ups on two hot topics: the development of the old Economy Plumbing site at 3190-3204 Washington St. between and Iffley and Montebello roads and licensing issues regarding the popular Millennium Restaurant at 3084 Washington St.
Yet the most important matter for the neighborhood association was not necessarily the outcomes but the process by which it plans to achieve those outcomes.
The group is well aware that how it works on these issues will set a precedent for the future of that reemerging organization.
"What we want to do," said Calderon, "is set standards for ESNA."
In a message to this reporter after the meeting, Cotto supported this view: "the re-creation of ESNA comes at a critical time for this neighborhood."
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Economy Plumbing Site
Cost is the main concern for ESNA with the plans for 3190-3204 Washington St. It would replace Economy Plumbing and EJ Auto Tech with housing and ground-level retail.
"What do we consider affordability in this area?" said Calderon. He added that he has heard that even rents in multi-family housing built by community development corporations are too high.
Cotto said that at a recent meeting with developers Dan Mangiacotti and Paul Iantosca two themes came up: the commercial spaces were too large and the rents were a worry. Cotto said that most businesses in Egleston Square were in the 900-to-1,000 square foot range —- not 3,000 s.f. as proposed by Mangiacotti and Iantosca.
Calderon said that the goal of ESNA is to make the Washington-Iffley development a model — "A standard for development in Egleston Square."
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Beer and Wine for Millennium Restaurant?
The request by Millennium Restaurant for a beer and wine license and longer hours was another area in which ESNA wanted to set precedents for the future of how it looks at economic development. The group seemed to be ambivalent about the beer and wine license.
"Will Millennium turn into a bar?" asked Christine Poff.
But longer hours — perhaps until 3 am. — were not only against city policy but against community wishes. O'Malley, JP's district city councilor, said he couldn't support a 3 a.m. license.
It was apparent that ESNA wanted to be supportive of Millennium Restaurant, which Cotto described after the meeting as a "feather in the neighborhood's cap." ESNA also wanted to set the proper precedent and committee review is important to the organization. Is this an Economic Development Committee question or does it come before a full meeting? Ron Hafer, chair of the Economic Development Committee, agreed that he would talk with the owner before he comes to a full ESNA meeting.
Millennium is one of the businesses in the 3152-3160 Washington St. block that was under threat of eviction from City Realty.
ESNA has four committees:
- Public Safety
- Economic Development
- Walkabilty/Franklin Park/Health
The goal of ESNA is to have strong committees and Calderon said that ESNA's goal is for each to work as much as possible with their respective city agencies. Calderon said that the mayor wants each committee chair to meet with its agency commissioner. He said, for example, that Park Commissioner Chris Cook wants to know when the next Walkability/Franklin Park/Health committee meets, which is chaired by Martha Karchere. The mayor and Cook are working on the new city budget, said Calderon, but it needs to reflect what this committee wants for Franklin Park.
Calderon said that a represenative from the Traffic Department will do a walk through with this committee on Tuesday, Oct. 28. One major issue is how to make the Washington-Columbus intersection safer. [Meeting time is 2 p.m at the YMCA]
John Barros of the BRA Economic Development section wants to meet with the ESNA Economic Development Committee.
Calderon said that the Housing Committee has had discussions with Shiela Dillon Director of Department of Neighborhood Development. One clear guideline from the Walsh administration said Calderon is that no vacant lots will be out out to bid "without hearing from ESNA."
"We are have been meeting for five months,"said Calderon and "a lot has happened in the Square." He added that ESNA had not met in eight years. People approached him and three others to jump start the organization but Calderon felt it was now time to consider an elected body. "This will require serious outreach ," he said. But he opened the meeting with that very phrase: the mission of ESNA required more outreach to the community. It was agreed that nominations would be presented at the January meeting. "We are back in operation." said Calderon.