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Starbucksalypse Now: Board reconsiders letting chain move into City Point

Proponents and opponents of a proposed Starbucks at L Street and Broadway are painting the now empty space in Michael Norton's building as the cornerstone of the neighborhood's future.

At a Boston Licensing Board hearing this morning, though, they described very different futures for City Point, the part of South Boston that has yet to see the tsunami of development and chains that has overtaken the neighborhood west of Dorchester Street.

Proponents say the store will give residents - and local businesses - a place to gather after 4 p.m. without the presence of alcohol. William Higgins, who said he's "spent my life on L Street" said the Starbucks could be the catalyst for a revitalization of a dead commercial area and turn it into the next version of Beacon Hill's Charles Street.

They were joined by City Councilor Bill Linehan - who supported the request the last time around - and Councilor Michael Flaherty, who sent an aide to say he had changed his mind because of an overwhelming flood of pro-Starbucks e-mails and notes.

Opponents say the area already has enough coffee shops and that all Starbucks will do is raise local rents and drive locally owned stores out of business. "It will absolutely ruin the character of the neighborhood," said Charles McCarthy Jr., attorney for Joseph's Bakery on K Street. And where Higgins cited Charles Street, McCarthy cited Hanover Street, on which he said long-running mom-and-pop outlets are being forced out by rapidly rising rents.

Opponents still had the backing of Mayor Walsh, who sent an aide to say the chain had failed to prove it had satisfied neighborhood concerns about trash and traffic.

City Councilor Michelle Wu and state Sen. Linda Dorcena-Forry, who had previously opposed the license request, did not send reps to today's Boston Licensing Board hearing.

The licensing board rejected Starbucks's license request in May based on the issue of overcaffeineation of the neighborhood as well as traffic and trash concerns. It decides Thursday whether to overturn that decision and grant the Seattle-based chain a food-serving license.

Starbucks's attorney, Curt Bletzer, said that Starbucks doesn't hurt neighboring coffee shops - it helps them, because not everybody who tries Starbucks likes it. He cited a Harvard study in claming that "research shows that other businesses do extremely well when Starbucks comes into communities, especially other coffee shops."

And while it's true Starbucks is a global concern, the L Street shop will be run locally, employ local workers and give to local non-profits, Bletzer said.

He said the chain will deal with trash by not using a dumpster and by ensuring it only puts its trash out in cans along the side of the building, not on the sidewalk.

He continued that while Starbucks is hardly to blame for South Boston's already notorious traffic issues, it will try to do its part by limiting deliveries to 8 to 10 p.m., rather than during rush hour or other busy times.

Brent Grinna, who lives in City Point and runs a Fort Point software startup, said City Point currently has "very few, if any options" for people like him who want to get out of the office and do work or interviews.

Ryan Miller, who lives a block away, said he's looking forward to a non-alcohol-infused place where he and his wife can take their young son after 4 p.m.

Joe Green, owner of the Paramount, said he's also looking forward to a Starbucks. "All of my staff is very excited," he added.

Two women, one of whom is is landlord to a South End Starbucks, praised the chain as making the blocks they're on safer.

Opponents, however, urged the board to reject the license request again.

Like McCarthy, Karen Stanley, a longtime official in the South Boston Chamber of Commerce, said rising rents brought about by Starbucks would mean death for neighborhood small businesses, the ones who for 20 years or more "stuck their hand in their pocket [and said] let's make a difference, let's take a chance - they are fighting for their lives." It's nice Starbucks gives to the local Boys and Girls Club, but the local owners of local shops do even more - even for individual residents down on their luck.

One resident said she has nothing against Starbucks in general, but said L and Broadway is just the wrong location, because it's an intersection used by lots of children and people with strollers and that all the double-parking latte seekers who will dash in for their caffeeine fix will only make things worse. She contrasted that with a sit-down restaurant, which just wouldn't have that issue, she said. Norton had previously sought to put a sit-down Italian restaurant in the space, but couldn't get a liquor license from the board and decided not to try to buy one on the open market - where they can go for upwards of $300,000.

Donna Brown said that despite Bletzer's assertions, "not much has changed" and the outlet continues to pose the threat of greater trash and traffic issues.

An assistant manager of the Dunkin' Donuts next door to the proposed location said the way Starbucks is taking advantage of a zoning-board permit for one of the restaurants Norton tried to get for the space previously is unfair.

Flaherty's aide acknowledged the zoning board messed up by not including a normally routine provision in its approval that Norton begin serving food within two years or lose the approval and said his office will work with that board to ensure that doesn't happen again.

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Comments

Southie DOES NOT need another coffee shop. My god people be creative.

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I'm glad you weighed in.

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Only in Boston does a hearing for the opening of a Starbucks get (AND DESERVE!!!) 1000 words. Bravo.

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Uh, no.

That's any place that has a zoning board or planning, and is very typical of New England, and is part of what keeps many of our towns from looking so generic like many other parts of the country. Countless places have hearings for new businesses.

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Most places around here have hearings for that kind of thing. It's not unusual at all. It allows them to advocate for businesses they want and don't want, in town centers. Maybe you would be happier moving back a state that doesn't care what gets built where and doesn't plan their neighborhoods or business districts.

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Neither of you two anon's actually took the time to read the comment you replied to. Good work.

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;)

My 11th grade English teacher really wants to make them decompose the sentence on a chalk board.

Firstly, find the verb.

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Basically, you just said your 11th grade teacher is still working on basic elementary school grammar.

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It totally helps your argument if I say 3rd grade instead so go ahead and substitute in your head.

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No one looks for perfect grammar in a comment section.

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Considering many posts whine about any of these hearings, it was a reasonable assumption on a skim that may have missed a word that was needlessly put into parenthesis.

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Was the license approved or declined?

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Apologies for putting it so far down in the post, but the board votes on it tomorrow morning (this is standard procedure for like 99.99% of their hearings, nothing unusual).

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that lots of the opposition stems from competing businesses. Starbucks would unquestionably be a nice edition to the block and help to upgrade the options in that area. The argument put forth on traffic is laughable considering how much double parking already goes on on Broadway. Enforcement of the parking laws would be a better way to address that pre-existing issue.

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The opposition is certainly not just from competing businesses. Since double parking is already a problem as you admit then the answer is to address the problem before allowing yet another business to exacerbate the problem. A lot of us are sick and tired of the traffic and parking problems being given a pass. The Boston Bagel Company created parking and trash problems Dunkin Donuts made thing made things worse and yet another coffee shop will undoubted make things even worse. This about quality of life and public safety for the residents of the immediate area. Their concerns and well being need to come before any other considerations.

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A tow truck.

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The city could solve the double parking problem in 2 seconds by posting a BTD officer out there to print tickets. They don't do this currently because the townies have a history of getting violent when the city tries to infringe on their right to double park. The city could also solve this problem by sending a police officer to the area as well, but they don't.

You can't blame the double parking on the local shops when they have literally zero authority or way to prevent it. That is a city problem which they have no interest in resolving.

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So it's the "townies" getting violent that stops BTD enforcement? I'd bet that it is more that the "townies" aren't going to tow their friend's/fam vehicles.

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Does that mean there is an interneighborhood townie network, or do all BTD personnel live in southie? And if that's the case, then why don't they tow and ticket the rest since double parking is such a dire problem?

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There are a great deal of people who grew up in Boston and have family all over the city. I'm not sure why BTD operates the way it does in the area, but I doubt it has to do with the threat of violence on L and Broadway.

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And disagree that the double parking is "dire" as posted above. I don't live in Southie but have driven thru plenty of times over more years than I care to count.

I've never had a problem either driving thru or quickly double parking to grab something. It's old school. You park in front of but between the two parked cars, giving them both a chance to get out. You don't dawdle and if you're boxed in you wait a few minutes and then toot your horn. It's worked for a long time and the local businesses get the biz they need.

There's nothing dire about it. Talk to me when the cops or fire dept. say they can't get thru. Or offer a solution that will keep revenue flowing to the small businesses.

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I agree, I don't usually have a problem driving though. Most of the time there's someone double parked at Tasty Burger, but you can get around them. I have more thouble getting through the cars double parked on Morton St. than on Broadway or L.

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And 2 travel lanes both ways. So much harder to merge into the other lane and/or keep moving when passing thru.

Morton St. Double parking causes noticeable traffic issues.
Honestly, you shouldn't be going down Broadway any faster than the current traffic and double parking allows. To many pedestrians and cross streets.

Broadway still working fine even with the parking.

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I still don't understand this. Is it always possible to ask the same thing of a board (seems like it would result in everyone asking until they get what they want) or is there some specific thing that allowed the second hearing?

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The licensing board doesn't seem to have any of those "denied with/without prejudice" restrictions that come with zoning-board decisions, so I think it was really just as simple as them asking for a new hearing - and showing that they'd had another public meeting to address neighbor concerns (which they held Monday at the Tynan School).

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I didn't know charity was a competition now:

the ones who for 20 years or more "stuck their hand in their pocket [and said] let's make a difference, let's take a chance - they are fighting for their lives." It's nice Starbucks gives to the local Boys and Girls Club, but the local owners of local shops do even more - even for individual residents down on their luck.

What a jerkoff thing to say in public in front of your neighbors. The point of doing good things is to do good things, and nothing else.

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She contrasted that with a sit-down restaurant, which just wouldn't have that issue, she said. Norton had previously sought to put a sit-down Italian restaurant in the space, but couldn't get a liquor license from the board and decided not to try to buy one on the open market - where they can go for upwards of $300,000.

Well, there you (expletive) go. This lady could have had the type of business that she REALLY wanted on her block. Guess which political party runs the statehouse and limits the number of licenses that Boston can have? You get three guesses, and the first two don't count.

Worst part is I'll bet that otherwise smart lady votes Democrat anyway.

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For putting the time into this post

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The politicians are allowing 22 story high-rises to creep up into their neighborhood, but people are worried about a coffee shop? The residents should be a little more concerned that their neighborhood is beng turned into Manhattan than another small time developer is corrupting their local politicians on a small scale like this. Turn the small problems into big problems to divert attention from the actual big problem.

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How many floors should that development be? 3? 4?

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3

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And that line is Dorchester Street. West of that is where you find all the new towers. East of that is City Point, i.e., old Southie, where people have roots going back several generations and such and where we see infill development, but nothing like what we've seen on West Broadway (or now down in Andrew Square).

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Oh, it's all old Southie. However, the problem now is that the residents of City Point didn't care about any development or changes because it didn't affect them in a significant manner. For an example, see what happened to St. Augustine's CHURCH- now million dollar condos and not a peep out of any of those people. However, there's a big push back when trying to convert Gate of Heaven SCHOOL to condominiums. Then the battle cry is KIDS BEFORE CONDOS!! I hope to see a Starbucks on every corner of the Point. Serves them right.

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Actually, that's wrong. If you search, there were actually groups set up to try to stop it, and it was written about in local papers.

However, that of course doesn't fit your narrative. It's strange how much resentment some people feel when they move to an area. You will be moving back to the suburbs when "you want more space" anyway, so it doesn't really matter. Not even a resident there, but just get along and stop being bitter than you didn't get to grow there.

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Completely wrong, people were involved.

http://www.bostonpreservation.org/allianceviews/2015/04/because-its-not-...

There's articles and groups out there if you actually looked for them, rather than making simple assumptions based on your own biases.

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Bill has no business supporting a business that contributed to his campaign. It is for this reason Bill Linehan must leave the matter to the residents. It is further for this very behavior that Bill Linehan needs to be replaced.

http://www.ocpf.us/Filers?q=linehan&cat=C#filer-data

Hopefully the above link works. If not, go to this link, put in Linehan, then search for Norton in the donors list:

http://www.ocpf.us/Home/Index

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One could wonder if that has had any effect on this process, with another hearing.

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how many signatures did the anti-Starbucks one get?

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He received $350/year. Is that how much it costs to have a councilor in your pocket?

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Get ready for a new ordinance that permits a pantsless Will LaTulippe in public.

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That's a lot more than most people give. Many of them don't get donations much larger.

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That is pretty large for a donation to local office, if you actually look. It's not about the money, it's about if you actually cared enough to donate more than the bare minimum. Don't think people aren't affected by donations more than a few dollars.

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but false. Linehan received over 100 other donations greater than $350 in 2015, and received over 200 donations of $250 or more. As much as I despise Linehan, $350 isn't anything that's going to cause him to support this because of a relationship with the Owner of the building.

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You don't get it. It's far larger than the average person gives.

It's not about the dollar amount, necessarily. It's about just being one of the person's of groups that donated anything substantial.

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You don't get it. I just explained that this is one of hundreds of donations of over $250, thus, it's not substantially more than the average person gives.

I have no idea what "just being one of the person's of groups that donated anything substantial" means.

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I wonder if Mayor Trashbag would endorse Starbucks, if they sponsored his Neighborhood Coffee Hours.

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