Crowning achievement – Controversy subsides as new BK prepares to open

The sign is up, the windows are in and the attractive new Burger King will soon open its doors in Maverick Square.

Last week the site at the corner of Maverick Square and Sumner Street was buzzing with activity. Construction workers were putting the final touches on inside fixtures, hanging menus and organizing the seating layout for the popular American burger joint.

Despite its controversial arrival in the newly developed Maverick Square, the new Burger King looks less like the chains one might see on the side of a highway and more like a sleek new construction with a historic flare. Box panels, moldings and an attractive wood sign are all things the neighborhood asked for and, like a hot Whopper, the owners delivered with precision.

“While it wasn’t our first choice for a new business in the square the owner did a very good job keeping in line with what we are striving towards in Maverick,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “It’s attractive and hopefully it will encourage the last few businesses in the square that have not gone back to a historic look consider a change.”

However, the new Burger King was not without its opposition and controversy. In September 2008 the Burger King was approved by the Licensing Board — the same board that ruled two years ago that owner Jay White did not convince them there was enough of a

community need for another Burger King in the area (Eastie already had one plus a McDonald’s and several other chains like Dunkin Donuts.)

At first, White tried to skirt the community process but was hauled in before the community when he was caught doing work on the building he leased at 1-3 Maverick Square back in 2007.

He was met with stiff opposition from local elected officials and many residents. However, there was a contingent of abutters that said they wouldn’t mind seeing a Burger King next door.

At a community meeting in 2008, those in opposition to Burger King made the argument that it’s not the right fit for the new Maverick Square.

Last year, after deliberating on its decision for nearly three weeks, the Licensing Board ruled against allowing Burger King to operate at the corner of Maverick Square. The city and state invested millions of dollars in rehabbing Maverick Square, which includes a new head house for the aging MBTA station in the square, new streets and sidewalks and new period lighting. Elected officials were less than enthused about the proposed Burger King as the flagship business in a square that is experiencing a rebirth. At the time, LaMattina applauded the board’s decision.

“A Burger King was not the right fit for an area where more family owned and independent businesses are relocating,” he said.

LaMattina was fuming and said the Licensing Board let down the neighborhood and that Eastie deserved better.

“We have so many other businesses that want to come into East Boston–especially around the Maverick area,” said LaMattina. “Everyone made the argument that there were no other businesses interested in the location but believe me once businesses owners see the square when its done I think businesses will be lining up to take a look at properties or move in to Maverick.”

LaMattina pointed to places like 303 Cafe (two blocks from the square on Sumner Street), Italian Express (which moved back to Eastie across from 303 Cafe), Ecco and Angela’s Cafe as examples of the future of Eastie.

“Burger King is not the future,” said LaMattina. “We spend all this money on a beautiful new square and this is the best we can come up with–it’s a shame because a Burger King will never leave.”

However, East Boston Main Streets Director, Clark Moulaison made a strong argument for a Burger King. Moulaison was of the opinion that a business like Burger King in the vacant building that was once a dingy bar is better than nothing at all.

“Despite many people’s best efforts no one stepped forward with the intention or ability to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars on someone else’s property located at 1-3 Maverick Square,” said Moulaison. “The alternative is to let it remain vacant with ugly metal grates and let it continue to deteriorate. We have been able to chip away at the blight that has plagued the business districts for over three decades replacing bars with more desirable businesses. Removing the grates and revitalizing the property at 1-3 Maverick Square is a significant improvement.”

Moulaison also said that it will employee about 30 local people and White is willing to keep with the historic integrity of the square.

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