Milky Way Mural Is Gone

The Milky Way mural in Hyde Square was painted over within the past week.

When Whole Foods moved into the building that used to house Hi-Lo Foods, some residents insisted that the murals on the front and back of the building be kept. Whole Foods .

But an adjacent mural hasn't fared so well. Within the past week, the colorful Milky Way mural has been painted over in battleship gray to match the rest of the building.

Passersby varied in their reactions. Alex Vermeulen of JP said that neighborhoods change.

"It's private property. The landlord can do what he wants with it," said Vermeulen.

Another resident, Joe Wyatt, wasn't so charitable toward Mordechai Levin, the owner of the parcel that used to house the Milky Way.

The parcel has been vacant since 2009, after Bella Luna Restaurant/Milky Way Lounge left the building. Levin increased the rent from $13,000 a month to $24,000 a month, according to a 2008 JP Gazette story.

The landlord having to pay taxes on an empty, non-revenue producing building is just desserts, said Wyatt.

"I consider it a piece of justice he's been unable to lease it," said Wyatt. "As far as I can tell, he's trying to destroy the neighborhood."

Levin could not be immediately reached for comment about whether a new tenant is in the works. since at least March.

The is still in JP, having moved to the Brewery to become an anchor tenant.

Steve Garfield November 13, 2011 at 07:33 PM
Wow. Starbucks might have allegedly asked for that change before considering the property. ;-)
Belle November 13, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Lame is as Lame does.
Matt November 14, 2011 at 05:23 AM
That's really unfortunate. I love the murals in JP and this one was great. I'd like to hear why they painted over it.
David Hannon November 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM
I enjoyed that every time I saw it. I heard they painted it over the color of the owners heart. {;-)>
Meredith West November 14, 2011 at 12:08 PM
I wonder if His Honor knew in advance. Private property or not, there are usually agreements/obligations to maintain these murals in exchange for the City's agreement to allow them to be painted.
ann November 14, 2011 at 01:20 PM
oooo love Meredith's comment... wouldn't it be wonderful if the city fined the greedy owner !!!
c.madison November 14, 2011 at 02:19 PM
This is so sad, the Murals depict the Heart of the City. Those beautiful faces! Why in the world would anyone do this? For what reason? I'd like to hear what the reason was too! Makes no sense!
nancy November 14, 2011 at 03:13 PM
that was just a rumor Dave; everyone knows that Mordy has no heart.
Max "Jay" P. November 14, 2011 at 05:14 PM
It's not exactly Diego Rivera. I think murals can be nicer to look at than blank walls, but I also think it's strange to insist that a mural be preserved. They're often quickly dated and rarely masterpieces. I'd like to see this mural replaced with a new, interesting mural. It's a good way to employ artists and liven things up.
Maura November 14, 2011 at 06:28 PM
I don't mind murals changing. I suppose a little notice would be nice in case you want a picture of it. But no doubt there would be a coalition of some sort to save each and every one from being painted over. I do hope a new one sprouts up. It would be so much nicer than all that gray.
Pat Roberts November 14, 2011 at 11:44 PM
The building is private property. It was nice of the owner to let someone paint a mural on his property. Now he's getting ready to do something else with the building, and he has the right to make the outside look different. If you really love murals, paint them on the sides of your own property.
Matt November 15, 2011 at 12:53 AM
I liked it better than Diego Rivera... :) Murals are more than that. They tell a story, they depict the local community, they tend to prevent graffiti and gang tags from showing up, they add color and interest to the otherwise boring landscape. "Outdated" is irrelevant.
Matt November 15, 2011 at 12:55 AM
I usually agree with the comments you make, but this one's a bit crotchety.
David Hannon November 15, 2011 at 01:45 AM
Yeah, Pat. I'm with Matt here, although I agree with the premise of your comment. My take is that this mural was a very positive and beautiful facet of Hyde Square (&JP too!). I loved that mural and stopped to enjoy it frequently. Painting it over battleship grey is yet a another slap in the community's face from this buildings owner.
gretchen van ness November 15, 2011 at 01:51 AM
Not a peep from Whose Foods/Whose Community on this issue? Saving the mural on the old Hi Lo building was one of their demands. How is/was the Milky Way mural different?
James November 15, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Yeah, it certainly seems like a Community Benefits Agreement is in order. It's a shame they were capering about in vampire costumes in front of the wrong building.
Iknow Pandora November 15, 2011 at 12:04 PM
Why would any business want their property used as a promotional vehicle for another enterprise?
rachel November 16, 2011 at 05:26 AM
I will miss Maryoake...No art? No soul!
Pat Roberts November 17, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Matt and David: But I didn't like the mural. I thought it looked junky. It's nice that you liked it, but I don't see why it's crotchety to be glad it's gone. And the weeping and wailing over its disappearance (I know, that's an exaggeration) seemed to cry out for a corrective. You think the grey paint is a slap in the face of the community, but it's not a slap in my face. I think it's an improvement to have that mural gone. And, again, the owner of a property is not obligated to adorn it in a way that pleases others, just himself.
Erica Lewy November 17, 2011 at 03:38 PM
No matter how non-nondescript he thinks he's making the building, its not going to hide the fact that $24,000 is too much money for rent. This is Jamaica Plain, not Soho (though I probably shouldn't open that can of worms).
Sarah Lydon November 17, 2011 at 05:07 PM
A slight digression, but can anyone confirm or deny--someone told me that Levin also owns the building on the corner of Green and Washington (kitty corner from Canto 6) that's been unrented for 8 plus years. What's the story here? I don't understand how any landlord can afford to have a viable space empty for so long...unless they're getting some kind of crazy tax break from the city because of a sob-story "oh, I doubled the rent and now no one will rent from me!" Obviously it has a huge impact on any neighborhood to have empty storefronts for months and years.
Chris Helms (Editor) November 17, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Hi Sarah, because Massachusetts allows properties to be held by real estate trusts, it's always a little difficult to say for certain. But Mordechai Levin is the manager of the trusts for 211 Green Street and also the next-door 3359 and 3357 Washington. Here's a link to the city's property database, one of my favorite places on the Web! http://www.cityofboston.gov/assessing/search/?pid=1102582000
Sarah Lydon November 17, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Chris--thank you! Fascinating...and still a mystery to me. I just want to know how the math works here. I mean--how do you go for that many years without a tenant--even if it were given away for $1000 a month, that's at least $100k of income. What's been the benefit of leaving these places empty--and dark, sad blots on the neighborhood--for so long? And now they're doing the same thing in Hyde Square? I just want to know what the upside is.
Shawn F. November 17, 2011 at 07:32 PM
that property ends up being a write off to lessen his tax burden..... maybe he can write off enough of a loss there to offset any rent he would have had.
nancy November 17, 2011 at 10:07 PM
IN 2006 Mordechai Levin and Stavros Frantzis as trustees of M&S Realty Trust conveyed 211 Green Street to 3353 Washington LLC for nominal consideration One can assume then that the two of them are the partners in the LLC, though to be sure you'd have to go to the Secy of State's office. The same day the two of them conveyed 597-605 Centre St to Centre Pond LLC, (the Ten Tables/Bon Savor block) Also 203 Green St to 203 Green LLC and 401 Centre st to 401 Centre LLC, the Mily Way mural building/block. And to understand how he can let them go empty for so long, know that he bought 401 Centre St in 1991 for $450,000 though theres a $2,565,000 mortgage on it. He bought 597 Centre St in 1992 for $245,000 and has a $500,000 mortgage on it, (that he took out this past August) and he bought the Washington and Green Sts. parcels in 1994 for $127,000 and has a $260,000 mortgage on it currently. Except for the Perkins/Centre St parcel, their numbers are prob doing ok.
Rik A. December 06, 2011 at 12:11 AM
I don't get these personal attacks on local property owners. They took on risk buying those properties, fixed them up, and kept them vacant until they found good tenants that could add a nice mix to the neighborhood's retail. If people here want to exert control on the local real estate market, they should buy some property and put their money where their mouth is. Complaints about empty storefronts should also be directed at the JPNDC -- hasn't anyone noticed that their new retail spaces at Blessed Sacrament have sat completely empty since the building went up?
Sarah Lydon December 06, 2011 at 01:30 AM
I don't see any personal attacks here. I would, however, like to see these vacant properties filled with, as you say, "good tenants" and I'm perplexed as to how these property owners have been unable to find tenants for eight-plus years. Given that history and by their behavior vis a vis Bella Luna et al, I'm concerned that those properties and the surrounding neighborhood will suffer the same fate.
Rik A. December 06, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Well, the old Bella Luna and June Bug spaces have been completely renovated with new glass storefronts and interiors. These are not abandoned, boarded up storefronts in Hyde Square. They may be empty, but it's obvious that the owner is investing in upgrades and maintenance to attract new tenants. The old Fat Ram's and the empty salon next to Sorella's both look pretty ramshackle. Where's the outcry there? I'm still perplexed why the JPNDC hasn't filled their vacant storefronts at Blessed Sacrament with the small, locally owned businesses they promised. Where's the JP Patch article about that debacle?


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