A new retail development project by Charter Realty is seeking permits to bring a Starbucks Coffee shop to 198 Hanover St., known as the “Gateway to the North End.” Located at the corner of Cross Street, the site is across from the Rose Kennedy Greenway and currently occupied by Citizens Bank at the old Martignetti’s Liquors site.
The arrival of the omnipresent coffee chain in the high profile location is sure to be controversial given the longstanding tenure of Hanover Street’s iconic Italian espresso cafes, including Caffé Vittoria, Caffé Paradiso and Caffé Dello Sport along with other Hanover coffee shops, My Cousin’s Place and The Thinking Cup.
The new building would contain three retail spaces and be up to 35 feet in height to include one high ceiling first floor and a 2nd floor mezzanine. The Citizens Bank ATM branch is expected to move to the center Cross St. location. The third retail space at the corner of Salem Street does not yet have a proposed tenant but has been previously been used for eateries including Caffé Graffiti and Bread & Butter.
News of the Starbucks proposal comes from a notice by the Zoning, Licensing & Construction Committee of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association. NEWRA’s ZLC Committee is scheduled to hear the applications at its May 2018 meeting. According to Chair Victor Brogna, the coffee giant is entering into a lease with property owner / developer Charter Realty that purchased the property in 2013 from the Martignetti family. Starbucks is being represented by Attorney Daniel Toscano.
If approved, Starbucks will be the second national coffee chain on Cross Street, joining Peet’s Coffee that opened in the former Goody Glover’s space at the corner of Salem Street. Boston’s own Dunkin’ Donuts does not currently have a North End store, with its closest outlets at Harbor Garage and North Station. Property owners on Hanover and Commercial Streets have reportedly considered Dunkin’ stores, but withdrew plans rather than face potential backlash from neighbors. Starbucks already operates several nearby locations on the waterfront including Lewis Wharf (2 Atlantic Ave.), Long Wharf (Marriott), Rowes Wharf and is opening a new store with outdoor seating at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Although there are no “anti-chain” zoning regulations, past proposals in the heart of the North End have been highly contested at neighborhood meetings and the stores have operated with mixed results. Most recently, a Pinkberry frozen yogurt franchise store closed after a failed three year run. Yet, there are still two 7-Eleven chains on Hanover Street along with a CVS pharmacy.
After the Big Dig, the plaza on Cross Street appeared to be a stellar business location and became known as the “Gateway to the North End” across from the Greenway. Not only does it feature the famous Freedom Trail path in front, but it also spans the busiest commercial areas in the North End, between Hanover and Salem Streets.
The promise of the Cross Street Plaza is still waiting to be realized. The large brick covered area has remained oddly desolate. Other than a juicery and nail salon (both of which are moving), most of the storefronts never gained much momentum. Proven businessman Nick Varano put his sandwich shop up for sale a few years after opening. Similarly, Frank DePasquale moved his pasta shop to Mechanic’s Court, off Hanover Street. Other failed enterprises in the space include Bread & Butter and Caffe Graffiti. Daytime parking was eliminated from part of the plaza, but plans by officials for permanent seating and tables never developed.
Charter Realty is expected to bring plans to upcoming neighborhood meetings in May 2018 before final permits are considered by city officials.