The View From Prospect Hill – September 11

On September 11, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

prospect hillHow many years now have we waited for something to be made of the site of the closed Star Market? Too many, by most estimates.

It is baffling to so many of us that such a great opportunity for some enterprising concern to revitalize the spot has not yet been seized. Several false starts have been made, and oftentimes thwarted by bureaucratic obstruction or opposition by certain concerned parties, rightly or wrongly.

With the past history behind us, we must look ahead to what can and should be done to bring life back to the dormant locale. Perhaps a renewed effort to lure the right kind of retailer should be made by the city and current holders of the property.

Special incentives might be considered to help motivate potential tenants and investors to take the plunge and revive the building and surrounding grounds.

Let us also encourage local residents and their representatives in city government to make a concerted effort to help pave the way and make the right kind of tenant feel welcome and needed as a vital part of the neighborhood.

What is currently considered an eyesore by some could rise to its fullest potential and restore itself as a useful, even vital, part of the community.

It’s taken long enough. Let’s move to get the right thing done in the shortest time possible. We deserve it.


41 Responses to “The View From Prospect Hill – September 11”

  1. A.Moore says:

    The powers that be want multiuse. Apartments and storefronts. Expect anything else to get stalled in red tape until they get their way as has been the case.

  2. Joan F says:

    A. Moore, we could do better than a junk store and I’m glad the city agreed. You think a Job Lots would have done anything to Winter Hill except re-emphasize that it was a second-class part of the city?

  3. Ron Newman says:

    This would be an excellent location for a Trader Joe’s. But so far they haven’t been interested.

  4. MT says:

    I think a Job Lots, not a ‘junk store’ by the way, would have actually served the low-income people of that area. The city is going to push for some high-end shops or restaurant, once again catering to the ‘newcomers’ who can afford those places, and leaving the low income residents out in the cold.

  5. A.Moore says:

    Where did I say anything about Job Lots? Most people around here want some kind of supermarket. Mixed use will kill that idea.

  6. A.Moore says:

    On the low end my choice would have been Aldi’s. Trader Joes? Maybe in a few years when the rest of us low income people are out of here. The elderly here in WInter Hill are buying their groceries from Walgreens. They should have better. They can’t get accross McGrath to the Stop and Shop. Some can barely make it up the hill to Walgreens. Job Lots? I guess as a last resort but that won’t happen now. Anything but multiuse.

  7. ritepride says:

    The residents should have the final decision on what is brought into their community, mayor joe is a public servant not a ceo who dictates to his employer (the residents).

    If you look at some of the stuff the city has brought in, (businesses that failed to pay taxes, problem bars/restaurants, etc.). The city has failed miserably on some of these, especially the constant offenders (members of the white envelope crowd?). The people speak, (not the chosen few) the elected officials should listen.

  8. Ron Newman says:

    “Multi-use” can mean a supermarket on the ground floor and other uses above it.

    Trader Joe’s is not a high-end expensive shop like Whole Foods.

  9. PixiePocahontas says:

    What about a super Walmart like meadow glen is getting?

    Don’t expect the administration to let the residents have the final say.

    Stop and Shop which replaced our Ward 7 Johnnies Foodmaster is no improvement. The place smells like rotten meat mixed with a visit from the local exterminator. Maybe they shouldn’t let these supermarkets sit vacant without being thouroughly clean out.

    We wanted to decide a better solution for PHCS, but after 10 years of sitting empty, they will hand it over to Tufts. They knew what they have planned for these sites from the first day they are closed.

    But they have to learn the loopholes that help them get around. Just ask their lawyer on WH.

  10. Somerbreeze says:

    Why has City Hall stalled on getting a supermarket for Winter Hill?

    Because there aren’t enough young professionals there…?

  11. A.Moore says:

    PixiePocahontas Walmart has what is called neighborhood markets which would be perfect for that spot. I am positive this city would do everything in it’s power to keep it out. The spot is perfect for a small type grocery store and with the parking there it would provide a valuable service there more so then any multiuse at this point and time. Brunello’s up the street I had always thought was a great spot for some type of eating place but it sits empty also. But then the people who we elected to represent us do what they want. I am also disapointed at Tony Lafuente, he sounds more like Joe these days.

  12. Bob says:

    Supermarkets weren’t interested in leasing the existing building.

  13. PixiePocahontas says:


    I don’t approve of the way Walmart treats it’s employees (I worked for a non-profit legal service agency which had pile of lawsuits filed by former employees) but Whole Foods is no better.

    They do their best to offer as very little to their workers in terms of a sustainable salary and benefit package. But I don’t believe that is the reason the city doesn’t want them here. It’s the control factor–they only want businesses they can control. They don’t seem to encourage independence within the business community. But I could see how many residents would benefit by having a store like Walmart, and they would be happy to not have to drive to Reading.

    Trader Joe’s doesn’t seem to be interested in coming to Somerville, either. There are good reasons why some stores choose not to do business in our city. After the showdown with IKEA, I can understand why they would shy away.

    I think the problem with Brunello’s is location. That entire lot should be torn down and redone. I was there a few years ago and thought the food was great. I never met Tony, but I think this entire administration has been doing this for too long and maybe it is time for a change. They are trying to hang on as the locals are and what it comes down to, is a matter of survival of the fittest. Tony doesn’t want to be left behind and maybe others who have stepped away can still try to be part of the same crowd, but now in the shadows, like the former Ward 5 alderman. Well nothing can last forever. The upcoming election should prove to be interesting.

  14. A. Moore says:

    My wife worked for them for a few years and loved it. No problems and great benefits. That is our experience with them. My personal company to hate would be Apple, they go beyond discrimination and we have many dead and permanently disabled making their Iphones. Anyway, that setup for the Walmart store were another company to offer one like it would be the perfect setup for that spot. If Brunellos had been in Ball Square it might have been a different story. I had met with the owner and I could tell he would not last right off, wrong food for the area, plus with the front it always looked closed, I felt bad for him but he tried hard.Too many of us older folk here for these cafe things to make it here. If you were to have put a Cracker Barrel place it would do a big business there until the chnage. We will just have a lot of empty storefronts until we are forced out of here. I had experience with the ward 5 alderman a few years back, not a good person. Don’t know much about Mark but I do not like Courtney at all. For several reasons. And nothing to do with the gay issue. I didn’t even know until the little problem at city hall that came up with the mayor writing a letter here. Didn’t care, I did notice he didn’t do the same for Joe Lynch though. I think you may see a Trader Joe’s but that will be at Assembly if it happens. The old Star will be multiuse at some point and the people here will be very disapointed as usual.

  15. Joan F says:

    Tony Lafuente has said on a number of occasions, there is nothing going into Star Market because the mayor won’t do anything about it. It’s his own ward – HE should be taking some leadership initiative in redeveloping (in an appropriate way) that section of Winter Hill. He just wants to complain, be anti-Curtatone, but not actually step up to the plate.

    He was nowhere to be seen during the neighborhood meetings for rezoning the area, but then had the gall to try to stop the first decent commercial/residential project in the area (the corner of Bway and Temple).

    I agree with Pixie Pocahontas, I don’t want a Wal Mart here. Brunello’s is a fine location, but the physical structure was built as a Bickford’s. It will always feel like a Bickford’s, no matter how many new signs you put in the window. It needs to be brought to ground level and the square footage increased.

    Brunello’s itself was also too expensive for the amount of food you got and the location it was in.

  16. Dan says:

    Lafuente is just biding his time for when Curtatone announces his governor run. Mark my words, he’ll be the first to announce he’s running for mayor.

  17. PixiePocahontas says:

    I agree about the Ward 5 Alderman, of past, experienced his dirty tactics first hand in a court of law. He’s not the brightest bulb in the political drawer.
    I was able to outwit him which was really easy and I don’t carry a law degree. He even managed to piss of the judge, but I got the feeling it wasn’t the first time. He was unprepared and lied about certain information just to try and win. But in the end, he made a complete idiot of himself. And I always wondered how he managed his position as alderman, so no surprises.

    That’s why he’s been forced to step down. I’m pretty sure it was over that business of condo ownership but don’t know the finer details. That’s what happens when egos are filled with too much hot air, like balloons they pop, when least expected.

    Agree about the stand in alderman, it’s obviously to garnish more of the LBGT vote because of the damage done by SO. They are sly, but at the end of the day, people know what they are doing.

  18. PixiePocahontas says:

    Sorry to hear about Tony’s ineffectiveness at supporting your ward.
    You know what they say, it’s better to go along so we can get along.

    I’m just the opposite and I’ve told them right to their face at events and community meetings. People think I am on their side because I grew up here, but I call it as I see it and I am greatly disappointed in the way they are managing our city. I’ve watched many good families move out because of their bad decision making.

    Money is not everything. It takes some people longer to realize the true important things in life. I worry for our children, our elderly, young struggling families who are being financially squeezed and forced out.

    What’s important is caring for families, friends and neighbors. That is the city I remember and miss. Some of our former mayors gave much more back, had compassion for residents. Somerville always had its problems like any town. But what we see today is far from what we had two decades ago.

  19. Joan F says:

    Lafuente doesn’t really have any record to run on legislatively. But that field will be interesting. Maybe Lafuente, Bill White, Gewirtz, Mike Capuano Jr, maybe Dennis Sullivan.

  20. Boston Kate says:

    I’m with Newman – I just recently started going to Trader Joe’s. The size of the Winter Hill space is just right. No other major supermarket would want to go in there; and I have a feeling that the Mayor agreed that one wouldn’t. I love lots of their products. Now, I would still go to Market Basket for the bulk of my shopping, but I’d love a place to go to, right after getting off the bus. Milk, bread, etc. – the basics and some extras. Trader Joe’s stores have a nice vibe – nice music; friendly, helpful employees, social conscience.

  21. Mary says:

    The mayor continues to propose the development of condos, or multi-use, despite the fact that residential costs the city more, and brings in less, than business use does. We need to bring in businesses that will help to lower our property tax rate. Once in a while Joe pays lip service to the fact that we need to attract business to the city, but then continues to push for residential. Maybe residential builders have deeper pockets……

  22. A. Moore says:

    I was for Tony when he ran for mayor and then alderman. He is not one to get back to you either. Not once has he got back to me on anything. I moved on to Bill White who always gets back to me regardless of what it is. May not like his answer or agree with him but to his credit he takes the time to do that. I probably use too few words but the size and setup of that Walmart type store fits right in. Does not have to be Walmart. I no longer own stock in them so I don’t care. If they open in Medford half of Somerville will be there as there are not any decent shopping here in Somerville. I will be happy to work for anyone running against Curtatone.

  23. A.Moore says:

    I had thought Tony with his business background would have been more help for the business people here. Guess I was wrong again. We will need more cars here so we can go out of the city to do our buying. I used to do my grocery shopping here but now it is Market Basket in Burlington. I do run into a lot of neighbors and people I know in Somerville there. Nothing against Trader Joes but we have a lot of elderly here in Winter Hill that could really use that supermarket there. I feel bad for them. They come up the street and talk to my parents about this all the time who sit out front a lot during the good weather. For myself I don’t expect to get anything here for us, just like Assembly. It is geared towards one group of people. Certainly not those of us who have been here for many years.

  24. ritepride says:

    Yes it appears Lafuente does not do plenty. Big disappointment.

  25. PixiePocahontas says:

    A. Moore,

    The Ward 3 forum proved to be interesting this evening. I hope that you can get to watch it on the local station or online.

    Of all candidates, I was impressed with Stephen Delani–he just tells it like it is and also has some sound business solutions for Union Square and beyond.

    They talked about Winter Hill Star Market site and he agreed, that the zoning should not have been changed, leaving the owner with little choices of what to do with that vacant property.

    What I liked the most, was his idea to stop the rising real estate tax burden for those of us who are carrying the load. He wants to shift the tax increases to commercial and absentee landlords, which I feel is more than fair.

    He also wants to reconfigure Union Square’s roadway and shift the congestion to one side, into Washington Street, leaving the newly created business district and pedestrian/bike and Green Line onto it’s own foot print.

    For those of you who are voting in Ward 3, I strongly urge you to look over his campaign literature. He’s lived in the city for 19 years, raised a family and knows the struggled of the working class community, elderly and our youth.

    He wants positive change and so don’t we, right?

  26. Sandy says:

    PixiePocahontas, Because you had a difficult encounter with the former Alerman of Ward 5, don’t overlook his replacement. And be forewarned of the person who is trying to replace him. You had mentioned dirty tactics…….
    As for Ward 3, we all know that tax burdens should be on commercial property, the only problem is we don’t have enough of it, and the administration continues to approve more and more residential rather than commercial uses. Much commercial use has been pushed out of both Assembly and Union Squares in favor of residential. And there is also already a very simple process for owner-occupied residents to get a break on their taxes.

  27. A. Moore says:

    Not too keen on the commercial tax. We have many home drown businessmen here who are just scraping by as it is. I would hate to see any more of them forced out. I think we need to give starting businesses some big breaks as some who are starting out have enough problems getting off the ground. This is from personal experience. It is hard to learn all the things one has to do to get started and the surprise of the unexpected things can really hurt one starting out. I would like to give big breaks to small markets starting out as this city is in big need of them. If indeed we truly want a walkable city. Food would be high on the list one would think. As for the traffic, I have seen it moved from one spot to the other for almost 70 years now. And hopefully I am wrong but that is usually what happens.

  28. Danger Mouse says:

    A. Moore, just curious, why do you not go to the Market Basket on Somerville Ave? The parking? The craziness?

  29. MarketMan says:

    We need a larger commercial tax base, but the tax *rate* is too high to attract business. Maybe it’s better to lower the *rate*. That way we attract more businesses and have a larger total.

  30. Linda says:

    I agree with Sandy. I did not get along well with Sean but find Courtney to be one of the best alderman I have ever dealt with. The alternative is a guy who hasn’t been engaged with the ward aside from school committee stuff. Courtney has been a champion for ward 5 with great successes under her belt.

  31. A.Moore says:

    Danger Mouse , all of the above plus it’s too closed in for me. If they ever had the room there for the large store it would have to be their top selling store as much as this one is so busy. Plus many items I use I can only get at the bigger ones. Now if they would put one in at Assembly we would have something. Not holding my breath as that is something so many here would want and we can’t have that happening.

  32. interesting says:

    one question’s been puzzling me. with Star closed for a long time, why is that parking lot completely filled every day? Can’t be RiteAid or the liquor store. Check it out, always filled.

  33. Matt says:

    The reality is that block marks the border between the Somerville we are proud of, and ghetto-vibe that we have down near Sullivan.

    Whatever we might personally think about it, the city will hold out for something clean and upscale, instead of risking something that could be perceived as ‘trashy” like the preposed Job Lots.

    As a long-time resident of the area I’m all in for anything that will encourage better behaved Somervillens to come down the hill instead of the creepy jerks who loiter outside the stores a few blocks down or the war-zone feeling you get on some blocks on the other side of Mcgrath.

    Hopefully someday the walk down to Sullivan Station will be full of fun bars and family friendly restaurants, instead of weird dollar stores and tiny markets who don’t maintain their storefronts. I say put in an Outback or Chillis. Or a damn Whole Foods.

  34. really unfair says:

    Matt-part of the reason for the demise of lower Broadway was the Stop & Shop shoved down our throats by union thugs. Union folks showed up from all out of town, and spoke at meetings about what a great deal this would be for the city. They drove home and never looked back. They got union construction jobs, and union supermarket jobs. Lower broadway lost mom and pop stores that had been there forever. 2 green grocers, a fish shop, convenience stores. A few of them became sad little keno/lottery/cigarette stores. I get a bad feeling even going in there for a snack. all day keno attracts the people you’re talking about. But “they don’t maintain their storefronts” because they’ve been almost forced out of business. now people like you criticize them. I’ve lived here a long time, and refuse to go to Stop & Shop. I resent what they’ve done to my little piece of the world.
    Patsy’s bakery has suffered ever since. Why would you stop there when you can get it all done in one place? So now the solution is expensive restaurants/bars, etc. This was a neighborhood, get off the bus, stop at Patsy’s for bread, treats, Joe’s for wine, another place for milk, Vinnie’s if you didn’t feel like cooking. a laundomat. Now, it’s gone downhill, and the business and people who got screwed over will not get priced out. Yeah, progress.

  35. really unfair says:

    typo–will NOW get priced out.

  36. PixiePocahontas says:

    really unfair,

    I have family on Fountain Avenue who always frequented Patsy’s bakery. It’s one of the best bakery’s still left in our town. We miss Cara Dona’s and the old Lyndell’s, which have new ownership. Lyndell’s bakery is close to how it was before, but changed. Stop & Shop was a mistake. They should have focused on improving the Shaw’s in Winter Hill and left the grocer’s be.

    Yes, it’s progress and the wrong kind. I’m hoping the entire city is NOT transformed to look like Davis Square. What made our city great was that each of our neighborhood squares had their own individual identities.

    If they all have Starbucks, Whole Foods and college bars, it’s going to look like Brighton in a few years. That’s not what we want, but as long as the administration keeps giving the green light to their friends the developers, it will be a tidal wave of change. Boston and Cambridge are doing it as well. I believe the main reason is due to all the pharmaceuticals, high tech companies building in the area. There are no plans for affordable housing–only talk, that’s it. The companies build and they need housing for their employees who make $75-100k. And they will not accept their city landscape as it is right now because they are bringing their “burbs to us”. We have to find a way to band together and come up with solutions to be able to survive this takeover–that’s truly what it is, with no exaggeration.

    I suggest to anyone who wants to learn more about what we are about to experience, read this book by William Worthy, once a writer at the Boston Globe. I found out about it from another former Boston Globe writer who recommended it. The copies are hard to find, the only one at the library is in Acton. You might wonder why this book is not being stocked at the local bookstore. Most of what he wrote took place in the mid 70’s, but it’s a bit shocking to read because all the same elements have been taking place in our region for about two decades now.

    The Rape of Our Neighborhoods: And How Communities Are Resisting Take-Overs by Colleges, Hospitals, Churches, Businesses, and Public Agencies, by William, Worthy (Hardcover – 1976) (Paperback – April 1977).

    “….here he takes on the “”unneighborly institutions””–hospitals, universities, churches primarily–that have been spreading at the expense of local communities, their housing, small businesses, and very existence.

    Worthy himself spent five years (1969-1973) battling to save his apartment building from the expansionist aims of New York’s undistinguished Columbus Hospital, run by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart–the order founded by American Mother Cabrini, “”patron saint of the homeless.””

    His point is that, despite their noble pretensions, Columbus and other non-profit institutions are no more principled in their pursuit of aggrandizement than the ordinary corporation, and that they must be fought tooth-and-nail until an ironclad guarantee against encroachment is secured”.

  37. A.Moore says:

    They are already priced out. That’s why the girls at St James work part time jobs as well as run their place. They don’t have enough to invest in a fancy storefront. We will go to Patsy’s until it is no longer there. Been going there for over 40 years. Leone’s, close to 50 years going there. All the ones we lost are too many to count. Some of those places have all family as they can’t afford to pay low wages which would be more than they make.

  38. important says:

    it’s very important to note here that Stop & Shop also caused this whole problem of Star closing. This came up at meetings that S & S would kill Star on Winter Hill. “No it won’t, plenty of business to go around” wrong again, developers, unions, pols. all had their hands out, and all are gone now when our elders can’t get to a grocery store. when we speak at these meetings, they treat us like morons, and time always proves us right.

  39. 2 points says:

    2 very interesting things here—1. the know-it-alls now proposing ideas (high end rest./bars, etc.) to solve the problem the last group of know-it-alls created! so those new hotspots can knock out Casey’s, Mt. Vernon, Vinnie’s. It never ends.
    2. Leone’s-we all went there as kids, they spotted a kid who wasn’t getting a sub, and gave him a “sauce sub”. a roll, sauce, maybe some cheese. Kid ate, and didn’t look different. Try that at Stop & Shop? we are devoted to them and Patsys for those reasons.

  40. anna says:

    A. Moore, an interesting point of information. The Demoulas store on Somerville Ave. is the company’s most profitable store, for the size of its’ footprint.

  41. A.Moore says:

    I don’t doubt that Anna, they can’t get the stuff on the shelves fast enough. Unlike when the A&P had it. Hopefully the rumor they are going to sell that store is only that, a rumor. It would hurt many like the Star market.

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