Jamaica Plain residents are fighting to save a beloved restaurant and their homes after they say a local real estate company is forcing them out.
City Realty plans to put a multi-million dollar mixed-use space in Jamaica Plain. Residents say the change is coming at too high a price.
"Here you have customers from El Salvador, Costa Rica, everywhere," said El Embajador restaurant owner Ramona Alvarez.
El Embajador has been in Jamaica Plain for more than 25 years, but it could soon be forced to close its doors after receiving a lease termination letter from City Realty Group.
"I was in shock because I really don't understand why they change it like that because in the beginning they were so nice," said Alvarez.
Alvarez and her husband say after being asked to move to a smaller space two doors down, the lease on their current space was terminated.
Less than a mile away on School Street, Rita Paul and three other families say City Realty is trying to force them out of their homes with rental increases they can't afford. Paul tells Boston 25 News reporter Crystal Haynes she works 60-70 hours a week to pay her current $900 a month rent.
"They proposed a rent increase of 50 percent. We're all pretty much immigrant families here and a 50 percent increase is really too much for us," said Paul.
This is not the first time tenants and City Realty have faced off.
In 2009, the state Attorney General's Office investigated the company for housing discrimination. In 2014, after several months of protest and petitioning local lawmakers, Chelsea renters got City Realty to lower rental prices.
"This is a neighborhood we all chose to live in and they're pushing us out because of forces beyond our control," said Paul.
Boston 25 News reached out to Mayor Marty Walsh's office who worked with residents on addressing their concerns over redevelopment and they are looking into the matter.
Boston 25 News reached out to City Realty for comment. A spokesperson said in part:
"From our purchase of the property, we were very open with the tenants at El Embajador that our eventual goal was to redevelop the property. However, we were motivated to try to help them relocate and willing to do all that we could to help.
We had the perfect relocation lined up for them right next door at 3381 Washington St. We were offering to lease the space to them for their same $1700 per month rent, well below the market rent of $2400, and give them up to 6 months of free rent to cover the hassle of moving. However, once City Life got involved, our discussions immediately lost all forward progress. Every time we agreed to new terms, additional extreme demands would be added. We were even told it was a requirement that they be able to assign this special affordable lease to someone else because they wanted to sell the business. Finally, after over a year of vacancy and no indication that El Embajador had any intention of agreeing to our offer, we agreed to rent the space to another local business, a small Dominican bakery, who had been asking about the space for months.
. We are happy to negotiate with tenants who need assistance and have worked out deals with hundreds of tenants who legitimately need help. But we do want the tenants to actually need help before we agree to such significant concessions. We don’t want to be victimized by people working the system to get a sweet deal.
We really are trying to do everything we can to be a positive force in the community and support its culture and history. We prioritize filling all of our commercial spaces with local small businesses and have 3 moving into the area in the next few months. Our non-profit City Kids organizes educational events and laptop giveaways to schools and local organizations. Our other non-profit City Pop handed over a vacant property on Washington St to local artist and gave them a significant budget to convert it into a pop up community art space."
Cox Media Group