Following back to back community meetings regarding two proposals to place a retail marijuana shop in the West End one proposal seems to be gaining the edge.
Ascend Mass Inc. proposing a retail marijuana shop at 272 Friend St. and Garden Reemedies proposing the same business at 49 Causeway St. have both held community meetings last month with West End residents. While both meetings have had their share of supporters Ascend’s Friend Street proposal has been gaining community and political support due to its location away from main thoroughfares like Causeway Street. Headed by former Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Ascend has purchased the Friend Street building and will transform the aging vacant structure into the retail marijuana shop as well as Ascend’s corporate headquarters.
Jane Forrestall, a board member of the Downtown North Association explained that growing support for Ascend comes down to location Forrestall said the main concern about the Causeway proposal is the fact West End Place is across the street
“My main concern is West End Place,” said Forrestall. “There are 87 or so children that live in that building right across the street. I know we (the West End) are going to get something but we want to make sure there’s enough security that bad things won’t happen or people are not just hanging around.”
Friend Street has seen its fair share of blight with vacant buildings and homelessness. Forrestall added that a multi-million investment in 272 Friend St. may begin to turn the street around.
“They (Ascend) own the building so I think they are going to make sure it is safe and secure so in that respect I think it’s a great location,” she said. “I’ve lived in the West End for 20 years and I’ve sat on several Impact Advisory Groups so I’m very in tune to the efforts to clean up the area.”
Ascend proposal includes taking the 15,000 sq. ft. building and transforming it into multiple floors for its retail marijuana operation. This, the group explained in its power point presentation, would give customers ample space and reduce the number of people that would have to wait outside. They also plan to renovate the facade of the building, limit the marijuana shop signage and install opaque windows to shield interior activity from neighbors and pedestrians walking by.
Forrestall added that her group has made a stipulation to any retail marijuana proposal that the West End group would like to see a very limited hours of operation due to the area being a draw for families.
Ascend planned hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Elected officials like City Councilors Josh Zakim and Ed Flynn, Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Joseph Boncore have all lined up to support Ascend’s proposal over the Causeway Street proposal.
“They (Ascend) have put together a thoughtful, comprehensive and community-focused plan,” said Zakim. “Each decision, from the location on a quiet side street to on-site corporate offices, demonstrates their commitment to and consideration for their West End neighbors.”
Michlewitz added that Ascend had, “Chosen its location on Friend Street carefully so that it sits on a less traveled side street, which is highly preferable to one of the area’s well traveled thoroughfares.”
Like Forrestall, Michlewitz said the fact that Ascend has purchased the building makes for a substantial investment in the neighborhood and the beginning of an overall Friend Street revitalization.
Ascend, said Michlewitz will also send three percent of its sales back to the City of Boston as part of a Host Community Agreement and pledged to support local charitable and community building initiatives.