A MISPLACED DISPUTE

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^ the Waldwin Group’s proposed building at the corner of Washington Street and Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury Center. Coffee shop will locate on the fist floor.

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One of the stranger neighborhood conflicts to come to my attention in some time is the battle that has arisen between some residents of Fort Hill and a Dunkin Donuts franchisee. I can’t recall the last time that a coffee shop became the focus of neighborly opposition.To me, coffee shops are among the most docile of local businesses.

Last night i attended a local meeting called to focus this opposition to coffee. About 25 people showed up, not including the activist who had notified me of the meeting. The 25 included some long time friends of mine as well as people of all age groups. Almost all expressed opposition to the City’s decision to award development of a certain parcel (see below) to a Dunkin Donuts franchisee called Waldwin LLC. Waldwin was chosen over two competitors, Placetailor and Urbanica.

I do not in any way question the sincerity of their complaint that, as some said, no notice had been given of the proposal or the outcome. Nonetheless, the assertion made at the meeting, and in an online petition being circulated, that the Dunkin Donuts franchisee is not a local business is false. Waldwin is the brainchild of a very local businessman, Clayton Turnbull, who currently operates the Dunkin Donuts store in Dudley bus station and has done so or close to forty years.

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coffee entrepreneur Clayton Turnbull ; almost 40 years of serving Roxbury center

Turnbull is an eloquent speaker and a very successful, very local businessman, of Roxbury, whose enterprise now evidently includes 17 Dunkin Donuts locations. His intention for the Fort Hill project is to relocate his Dudley Station Dunkin Donuts. In Dudley Station, he rents; in the new location he will own and will occupy the first floor of the complex he is seeking to build. (see photo above.)

Many of the opposed residents may not know that Turnbull is also extremely active politically. in 2013 he served as finance chairman of Charlotte Golar Richie’s Mayor campaign; after she lost in the primary be became a superb speaker for candidate John Connolly. This year he is a donor to the campaign of City Councillor Ayanna Pressley.

I have no doubt that Turnbull’s intimate knowledge of the development approval process enabled him to be selected over his two competitors. It was not a sure thing. I’m not much familiar with Urbanica, who it seems are already active developers in Fort Hill; but Placetailor I know well, and so does Fort Hill : last year the Jamaica Plain-based group built an innovative and handsome “high performance”: house on Beech Glen Street, and it remains an active developer in the Fort Hill area.

Turnbull’s proposal, according to a support letter given him by Dudley Square main Streets, offered the least dense build-up of the three proposals. DND’s “Rationale for Waldwin Group’s Selection”: statement also noted that Turnbull is the only proposer who is a local businessman and is “an expansion of an existing Dudley Square business  by an en user developer who has been doing business in this community or close to 40 years… this businessperson has strong ties and connections to the Dudley community.”

Opponents at last night’s meeting brought up all sorts of other reasons which seem shaky. They noted that Dunkin Donuts does not pay a “living wage.” Has there been any complaint thereof at his present long term location ? It was said that Dunkin Donuts sells sweet foods in a diabetes neighborhood. Does Turnbiull’s Dunkin not sell such foods now, directly across the street from where he proposes to move ? There was talk of too much traffic; but the location at issue is trafficked already. Lastly, it was said that “direct abutters were not notified.” From what i can tell of the location, it has no such abutters but is bordered by major streets on three sides and a large building on the other. (the site is called “Archer Bonnell” and stands on the southwest junction of Malcolm X Boulevard and Washington Street directly across from Dudley bus station and a Boston Police facility.)

The meeting’s moderator noted, lastly, that “there is half a billion dollars of development going on right now in Roxbury,” as if that were a bad thing. i do not see it as a bad thing. how can a vast infusion of risk capital into a neighborhood that until recently was starving for investment be a bad thing ? Tell that to local homeowners who have never had much money, thanks to racism, but who now see their homes worth a lottery ticket price — a large lottery ticket at that.

For me, the upward success of Clayton Turnbull, as a long term local developer, is something to be celebrated. Roxbury needs to incubate success from itself, not always import it. Roxbury activists talk that language constantly. They cannot have it both ways. Generate local success stories, or see Roxbury bought up entirely from outside.

—- Mike Freedberg / Roxbury Here

below : last night’s meeting

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