Owner shuts the door on Popeye’s bid for Codman Square site

Popeye’s hope for a location in Codman Square has been put to rest as the property owner is not renewing the chain’s lease and seeking another tenant. The storefront at the corner of Washington Street and Kenwood Street was completely renovated by the national chain in 2019, but never opened. Seth Daniel photo

After a long and contentious history with Popeye’s Chicken and its lease on a potential location in Codman Square, the property owner and community are turning the page on the saga: Antoinette Rodney, and her broker, James Harrison, of Boston Bayside Properties, have indicated they will not renew the lease with Popeye’s and are looking to lease to a new tenant.

“The property owners and Boston Bayside Properties are excited to offer for lease approximately 2,200 square feet of space, which is sub-dividable, on the corner of Kenwood Street and Washington Street,” said Harrison in a statement to the Reporter. “With so many exciting things happening in Codman Square including the upcoming Codman Square Park [renovations], 34 new residential units on Aspinwall Street, future development of 270 Talbot Avenue, and much more, we believe 572 Washington Street offers a great opportunity for a new commercial tenant to fit in and thrive with the neighborhood.”

Popeye’s has sought to open in the space since 2016. Additionally, it completed significant renovations in 2019. But community opposition and permitting issues prevented it from ever opening, leaving the storefront vacant for the past several years.

Cynthia Loesch-Johnson, president of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council (CSNC) said her group is pleased with the outcome.

“We look forward to working with the landlord to identify a business that will help advance and revitalize the Codman Square merchant district,” she said. “The community’s voice was heard and listened to in this case. It is not just important but also necessary to stand up and advocate for what our community needs.”

Popeye’s corporate communications team did not return several e-mails requesting comment on the owner’s moves.

The vacant yet upgraded location in the Square is a reminder of a fight that had its beginnings when Popeye’s came before the CSNC six years ago proposing an outlet there amidst a major expansion of the brand in Greater Boston.

The CSNC opposed the move for several reasons, including the lack of healthy food options in the Square, and the city’s Zoning Board denied the proposal in October 2016.

More than a year later, though, a permitting loophole set out via an appeal in Suffolk Superior Court allowed the chain to go forward with more than $1 million in renovations to open as a restaurant with 25 percent or less business being take-out. The permit that was denied in 2016 was to change the use to a take-out restaurant.

In December 2019, the Boston Licensing Board denied Popeye’s a common victuallers license, preventing the business from opening once again while pointing out there were numerous fast-food options already in the Square. That denial came with a one-year waiting period for Popeye’s before they could re-apply, but a year later, firmly in the grip of the pandemic, the chain never put forward another application.

At a meeting of the CSNC in July, at least one local bakery owner – Sweet Teez Bakery – indicated she would love to try to lease the space as a bakery and coffee shop. Other local businesses have recently shown interest as well.

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