Some of the roughly 17 minority- and women- owned businesses that now share space in the rickety old building at 1127 Harrison Ave. that a developer wants to put 94 small "co-living" units atop are asking the city to block the project unless the company rescinds the eviction notices it sent to some of the businesses.
Represented by Lawyers for Civil Rights, the businesses note that the Boston Real Estate Collaborative specifically named them as being guaranteed space in the structure even as it is rebuilt to support new floors. In a letter to Mayor Wu and the BPDA yesterday, the legal group writes:
In its application for City approval and in numerous public meetings, BREC repeatedly promised that the Project would not displace the small, minority- and women-owned businesses that currently occupy the site. Yet within the last several weeks - even before the Project has received final City approval - BREC has issued eviction notices to the very businesses that it repeatedly promised it would not displace.
BREC's brazen flouting of promises made to the City, to these small businesses, and to the Roxbury community should not be countenanced. If this matter cannot be amicably and expeditiously resolved, all currently pending requests for City approval related to the Project should be denied.
BREC filed plans with the BPDA in January, 2021 for a five-story structure that would combine tiny studios and efficiency units with community space on each floor designed to "foster and promote collective living, working and social environments." When done, the result would be a new community to replace the "blighted and underutilized" single-story building now there.
The application names current commercial tenants and says they would be allowed to stay during renovation and construction and would be moved into new spaces in the building as they became available and that BREC had worked closely with African Community Development of New England, a non-profit that has been working with the tenants, who make everything from clothing to food, much aimed at African immigrants in the Boston area.
But instead, starting in late February, BREC began serving eviction notices to several of the business, the tenants' lawyers say:
ACEDONE immediately contacted BREC to discuss this about-face and was told that the evictions were due to allegations of rent arrearages. ACEDONE explained that rent collection procedures under the prior landlord had been informal, with a landlord representative often just stopping by the businesses to collect rent ± and that a number of businesses have since sent in rental checks that have gone uncashed. ACEDONE further attempted to resolve the issue by offering to become the tenant and having sub-leases with the existing tenants. BREC rejected all proposed resolutions, stating that the only possible outcome was for the businesses to leave immediately.
As BREC itself recognized in its assurances to the City, these small businesses have already endured great hardship because of the Project, including water damage to inventory because of construction, lost revenues, and relocation within the building.
BREC cannot start construction of its proposal until it receives BPDA approval.