By George P. Hassett

The city’s Planning Board voted tonight to reject a bid by a discount close-out store to open in a Broadway lot vacant since 2007, causing a lawyer for the property owner to cry foul over the city’s handling of the process.

After the Planning Board voted unanimously to accept city staff’s recommendation to deny Ocean State Job Lot the special permit they needed to open at 299 Broadway, Bob Allen, the attorney for property owner James Cohen, said his client may pursue a lawsuit against the city.

“When we first met with the mayor and the mayor said, ‘Over my dead body would Ocean State Job Lot go in there,’ I think it was an uphill battle from there,” Allen said. “When we go before a board appointed by the mayor knowing that over his dead body would it go in there, I wasn’t expecting [approval]. I’m very disappointed in the way we were treated.”

Cohen declined to comment to reporters after tonight’s meeting, making golf swing motions with his hands while Allen spoke.

Ward 4 Alderman Walter Pero said he supported the ruling to keep Ocean State out based on the city’s recent rezoning of Broadway. “We rezoned so we could do better,” he said. “And we can do better there.”

In a report from planning department, city officials wrote, “In general, while this proposal will fill a vacant building, it will not bring any significant benefit to the streetscape and urban design of Broadway on Winter Hill. Given that surrounding businesses are already struggling and many are continuing on in hopes that the neighborhood will turn around, approval of the proposed permit could potentially result in more vacancies and disinvestment.”

At a meeting last month, Job Lot executives said if opened, the store would employ approximately 50 to 60 Somerville residents.


21 Responses to “Job Lot rejected as Broadway tenant, property owner may sue city”

  1. Ben says:

    Once again the city has no clue. If they’re worried about business being bad in that section of lower Broadway and most of those shops are restaurants then wouldn’t they want a business that isn’t food related but would attract people to shop?

  2. Oingo says:

    What a waste of city money and time. I can’t wait for more lost $ due to legal action.

    On the bright side, maybe all the concerned citizens who only showed up to complain will actually spend their free time working towards finding a tenant or developer now that there’s time to do so.

    I know, I know – it’s not our place to do so….but with the economy the way it is it you have to be willfully ignorant to think someone is going to come beating our doors down to invest here.

    Can the City produce a single investor who will discuss what it would realistically take to develop this property? That would be some leadership. Because right now all the Democrats here sound like the GOP – the party of No (ideas). And just saying ‘we can do better’ is no plan.

    God, I hope the Assembly project doesn’t fall through.

  3. frank says:

    I lived near a OC joblot,it is a great store.they have great prices on quality merchandise with our economy the way it is you would think that mayor joe want to have a store like that in our city.

  4. Gustav says:


    The city employs full time attorneys who get the same salary with or without a lawsuit. In the rare occasion that the city actually gets to a point where they need to hire outside counsel to help, they’ll probably have settled with the Job Lots people anyway.

  5. Oingo says:

    Gustav, thanks for the information – what I meant was it was a waste for everyone in the city (residents, BoA, planning Board, etc) to spend their time on this since it was already a done deal from the start.

    But do you mean that the city attorneys would not pass on any additional charges for paperwork to be printed, studies to be commissioned (if requested by the court), etc?

    But my main point (and of course it’s only opinion) is that the rejection makes no sense. Somerville has shown a good deal of planning in other parts of the city (which I commend them for) but i this area….well, I guess they figure the prices will drop so low that eventually it they will find their developer. Not a nice thought for the people who are trying to raise families here now, though.

  6. Brenda Soileau says:

    I live in Connecticut. Job Lot is here and it is a great store. It doesn’t take business from other stores. If you want to help the low income residents, put discount stores in. We can’t all afford to shop at Kohl’s and Macy’s, which to me are expensive. We need affordable goods.

  7. not surprised says:

    They should sue the city, there was no reason for them to be denied. Yes, they would have filled a vacant building – but here’s another concept it would also bring in a few JOBS…. Somerville strikes again in doing what is not best for the city. There are to many people in our local government that think this city is better than it really is. I am not saying that to put this city down, I am born and raised here. But people, a lot who have not lived here for long, need to realize that this city used to be mostly if not all laborors….therefore we are not too good for a store like this.

  8. joe says:

    Well, why would we want a business in there that might actually generate tax revenue for the city? It might hurt the mayor’s yearly lament that taxes have to go up because we have mostly residential properties and not enough of a business tax base. I hope they do sue the city, despite the fact that it will ultimately cost us all even more money. A property that has been vacant for 3 years is better left vacant? If they could do better then why haven’t they? The Mayor must have plans with a developer in the wings to put another 450 condo units on the site. There seems to be an obsession with more and more condos. Residential use pays less in taxes and uses more in city resources. And by the way, calling this group a ‘Planning’ Board is a real stretch of the English Language. This city hasn’t done any planning in years. And the rumor is that several businesses might be pulling out of Assembly Square. Why? Becuase we dragged our feet until they built it across the river. I don’t think it can be successfully duplicated here.

  9. Job joke, not job lot says:

    Kudos to somerville for reject ing the project. We have come too far andy expect more.

  10. Howard L. Carr says:

    note to Job Lot: Sponsor fireworks, the Mayor likes those. Lets see Winter Hill has 2 sub shops, a liquor store, and a Post Office….Job Lot IS AN IMPROVEMENT !!

  11. Greg T says:

    If you want to clean up lower broadway, send INS down there to get the illegals out. Foss park would be a good place to start. Then you can move onto the 2 bedroom apartments occupied by 10 people. They are a public safety nightmare.

  12. Oingo says:

    Honestly, can nobody on the side of the elected officials distinguish between what we’d like to have happen versus reality? And the whole “we need fresh food” group who came out of the woodwork at the last minute are being duped. There is nothing in the new zoning that shows any intent to retain the Grocery use. It is a smokescreen that the City can take cover under until they ‘find a developer’.

    Question: how do you develop a property when you don’t own it?!?!?

  13. Todd H says:

    Having a chain big-box supermarket here just isn’t feasible. There is a Super Stop & Shop AND a Market Basket a mile and a half away.

  14. Limousine liberals says:

    The limousine liberals love handouts and providing for the lower class, but here is a perfect example of how they illustrate hypocrisy! They love claiming environmental consciousness but when it comes to stores like job lot—forget about it! According to them, theres a time and place for the lower class.

  15. John says:

    Regardless of what tenant fills the vacancy, there are greater issues that need to be addressed in order to clean up that site and get our neighborhood back on track. There is a constant flow of sordid activity that occurs at the rear loading dock from the bizarre to the disgusting. It also seems to be a well-known place for people to congregate including a band of five drunk men who now appear to be getting violent. Even though there is a constant police patrol, it isn’t right that the owner of this site doesn’t take more responsibility for what’s going on. The store has not been maintained with garbage flying around everywhere, poor lighting, and no security surveillance.

    Perhaps a tenant, even if it is something like Job Lot, would help because there would be normal activity that would deter the alternative. However, for those of you who did not attend the Job Lot Neighborhood Intro Meeting a few weeks back should know that Job Lot had a blatant disregard for improving the neighborhood. They talked about “aesthetically” enhancing the building by plastering it with advertisements, and no discussion of replacing the canopy or repairing other damages. They even went to great lengths to impress us by spelling Somerville incorrectly in their presentation. This lease would be a 30 year lease. It’s not a temporary fix that in 5 years time could change to something more high end.

    Not that Winter Hill needs to be the next “hot spot” in Metro Boston, but as a home owner and a neighbor, I think we do deserve a community that we feel safe to walk around and a community that we can take pride in.

  16. John Connelly says:

    The city officials need more training so that issues like these can be done correctly the first time. The city officials get upset when the people complain but the city officials bring it upon themselves because they put the cart in front of the horse in a rush to get things done. Sometimes it occurs in order to meet the deadline for matching funds, etc. There has to be a viable use for the old Star Market that satisfies both the area residents and city.

    The Powderhouse School is vacant, it could be the answer in relocating the Police Station and save money too. But the first thing done was to change the zoning for this building thus leaving the taxpayers with the impression that a deal has already been done. Change must occur in
    order to satisfy the needs of the neighborhood, not the developers needs. There needs to be an input from those citizens who have lived most of their lives in Somerville, not the newbies looking to live in the city for a short time and do a “flip” on the house, nor the absentee landlords, who have chosen to make a buck but not have real concern for the area because the do not live in Somerville. If you force all of the long time residents to move out of the city, all that will eventually be left is a giant project complex.

  17. mayoral lovechild says:

    Hey Joey, Job Lot has good prices on diapers and formula for the new arrival. Way to go, Tiger!

  18. F Marek says:

    Question: how do you develop a property when you don’t own it?!?!?

    Answer: Eminent Domain

    And to all the Job Lot fans, its a crap store that sell crap goods. If you want garbage like that, there are plenty of places to already go along Broadway.

    The City is trying to plan for the next 20 years, not next week. If all you want is to fill a space, then how about we add more liquor stores, strip joints, etc –hey bring in plenty of business.

  19. Oingo says:

    I guess I’d like to know what the citizens would like to see, if not Job Lot. That would be a good start to discuss where we want to go…instead of what not. Because the city has one plan – it’s mixed retail/office and housing (good luck finding financing for residential space above commercial property – banks will laugh at you)

    FMarek: there’s no way the city would use Eminent Domain because they know that developing the site to their ‘vision’ isn’t feasible. Else they would have done it….so they have that much sense, at least.

    John: The guy from Job lot said nothing to the effect of plastering advertisements. if you paid attention you would have realized we are in a position to get concessions from the tenant and landlord on many issues. They came with plans for redoing the lot (breaking up pavement, adding plants, etc) , adding security lighting, fencing and locking the empty lots on Sewall, etc.There are plenty of reasons to disagree with the proposal, no need to make up lies.

    John Connelly: God point about the zoning – but it seems like they HAVE a deal already. The mayor seems to have a developer he wants in on the property and Cohen said no. So we all get left holding the bag. But can we tone down hating on people who actually buy in your city? You got landlords who don’t do anything to upkeep the neighborhoods or tenants who don’t care where they throw their trash and you’re hating on young first time home buyers. I buy a house in Somerville because a) I work in town and b) it’s all we could afford (without taking out a stupid ARM loan or whatever all the bailout candidates took) and now I’m subjected to regurgitated complaints from the aggrieved ‘long timers’. Sure, you’re all for ‘working class’ people as long as they lived their entire lives in your city. Friend of the working man my A$$. And if people come in and sell a few years later, so what? it’s called life. You get married, have a kid, you might want a little more room to to move closer to friends or family….They can still be helpful neighbors who pay their taxes and help the community (if you didn’t take every chance you get to disparage them). The city put a moratorium on condo conversions – what more do you want? More illegals taking advantage of low rents and fighting in your streets or passing out at the park? More students using the city like a dorm room? C’mon.

  20. Oingo says:

    Limousine liberals: wtf are you talking about? More buzzword labels? Say what you think instead of parroting some b.s. you heard on WEEI or michael savage. I don’t see anyone living in Somerville riding a limo around, do you? And the ones who shot down the proposal were townies who hardly qualify as ‘moonbats’ or whatever other useless label you’re using these days….

  21. yuppiescum says:

    Politics aside.. Anybody who doesn’t think a low price supermarket (particularly a Market Basket, Johnny’s, etc) has never set foot in the tokyo subway that is the Somerville Ave Market basket! There is absolutely demand from both young pro’s and low income residents for another supermarket. I would go to a different MB in a heartbeat but the next closest one is in Chelsea or therabouts so it suits me better to go to the one near my work out in the Burbs on the way home.

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