Eastern Market landlord Sanford Nelson has become somewhat of an online punching bag in recent months as a series of businesses in his buildings have closed or announced plans to do so. But he officially achieved memedom last week, when the owner of Russell Street Deli accused him of of trying to force out the restaurant with a rent hike.
Nelson, 30, has with an investment group spent $25 million on property in the area, stoking fears he'll wipe out some of the bespoke businesses that have helped shape the market's character over the years. Real estate in his prime buildings could lease for up to $25 - $30 per square foot, but many of the tenants he inherited are currently paying much less.
In addition to the deli, Mootown, the Farmer's Restaurant, and Eastern Market Antiques are all closing this year for various reasons. Nelson's building acquisitions have also driven out some of the neighborhood's artist tenants.
Though Nelson has said he eventually wants to set aside some space as "affordable," at this rate, Russell Street Deli owner Ben Hall has warned that Eastern Market could wind up looking like a "version of New York where it's like . . . you have a lot of CVSes . . . and Chase Banks and Duane Reades. But none of those businesses really have anything to do with that city or that place.”
Now, there's a meme to help you envision that grim possibility:
People have also taken shots at the young investor for his wealthy background.