Mahoney: Quincy needs a citywide comprehensive economic development strategy

Says restaurant’s bad experience demonstrates Koch administration’s poor management of downtown project

QUINCY—Mayoral candidate Anne Mahoney today pledged to implement a comprehensive citywide economic development strategy that would inject new life into Quincy’s neighborhood business districts while instituting more stringent city oversight of the downtown redevelopment project.

Mahoney, currently the vice chairperson of the Quincy School Committee, said she would draw on her degree in finance and private-sector business experience to better manage the billion-dollar development project while expanding City Hall’s focus to include business districts in North Quincy, Wollaston, Quincy Point and other areas of the city.

“Tom Koch has put all his eggs in Street-Works’ downtown basket to the detriment of Quincy’s other business districts,” said Mahoney, noting that the Koch administration has discouraged and created obstacles for businesses seeking to open up in other areas of the city, such as BJ’s Wholesale Club, Lowes and Walgreens.

“Quincy needs a mayor with the background and experience in business to implement an economic development strategy that looks at the city as a whole and doesn’t favor one large developer at the expense of the hundreds of businesses that are the lifeblood of the Quincy business community.”

In addition to developing a strategic plan for proactively recruiting businesses to all of Quincy business districts, Mahoney pledged to:

  • Protect taxpayers’ investment in the downtown redevelopment project through more stringent oversight
  • Increase the transparency of the project through public availability of project timelines, deliverables and costs
  • Ensure all citizens understand the scope, true costs and risk associated with the downtown redevelopment
  • Remove politics from the City/Street-Works relationship and ensure that any hiring is based on qualifications, not connections

“A project of this magnitude requires experienced, professional leadership at City Hall,” Mahoney said. “As mayor, I’ll ensure that the downtown redevelopment is executed in the best interests of Quincy residents and business owners, not developers.”

In its zeal to please Street-Works, Mahoney added, the Koch administration has driven out successful Quincy businesses, forcing them to relocate elsewhere. She pointed to the case of the Little Q Hot Pot restaurant, which made a significant investment in opening a highly-rated restaurant in Quincy Center, only to learn shortly thereafter that the building in which it had signed a 20-year lease was slated for demolition as part of the downtown redevelopment project.

“Little Q Hot Pot is considered one of the best restaurants in the entire Boston area; it brought people to Quincy from all over the region,” Mahoney said. “It was exactly the type of business the mayor’s office should have worked to keep here in Quincy – but instead the Koch administration’s mismanagement forced them to relocate elsewhere. Now, Boston and Arlington will reap the economic benefits of having Little Q Hot Pot in their communities.”

Ming Zhu, Little Q Hot Pot’s owner, said he was shocked to learn just seven months after investing $800,000 and more than a year of negotiating and construction that the building in which he opened his Quincy restaurant had been scheduled for demolition.

“We spent months dealing with the building department, the licensing board, the health department – and not one person told us about (the demolition),” said Zhu, who came from California to open his restaurant in Quincy. “We could not understand why everyone tried to cover the project from us.”

When faced with the news that he would have to move, Zhu said he hoped to find another Quincy location for his new restaurant, which had already built up a following.

“The city had a relocation specialist who was supposed to help us find a location – but they did not present us with a single location to consider,” Zhu said. “We had made so many customers in Quincy we did not want to leave. But when the city wouldn’t help us find another location and told us they could only offer $225,000 to relocate us, we had no choice but to hire an attorney.”

In early 2010, the city ended up paying a legal settlement of $735,000 to relocate the restaurant to Boston – an amount Zhu says was more than he initially requested. “It would have been cheaper if the city had helped us relocate in Quincy, where the rent and the cost of renovations would have been cheaper,” Zhu said. “Everyone is always asking what the Q in Little Q refers to: Q is for Quincy. We miss Quincy and we miss so many of our customers who live in Quincy. We would love to come back to Quincy, but not until the city changes the way it treats local businesses.”

Mahoney said Zhu’s experience underscores the Koch administration’s lack of economic development experience and mismanagement of the downtown redevelopment process.

“Had the Koch administration managed this situation correctly, not only would one of the city’s three Zagat-rated restaurants have stayed in Quincy and been one of the first businesses in the new downtown, but the city wouldn’t have had to pay the large settlement it did,” she said, adding that the Koch administration has unfairly portrayed the restaurant as the “bad guy” for holding up the downtown demolitions.

“Little Q Hot Pot was a casualty of the city’s disorganized and mismanaged downtown redevelopment process, where one hand didn’t know what the other was doing,” Mahoney said. “As mayor, I’ll take a much more active role in managing the city’s economic development activities. When we recruit successful businesses to come to Quincy, I’ll make sure they’re treated with respect and made to feel welcome and part of the community when they get here.”

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