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Most displaced Campus Village shops remain without new homes

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Posted on: April 11, 2024

By KATELYNN WINEBRENNER

Of the 16 businesses that once had storefronts in the Campus Village Shoppes on Route 1, one has relocated to a suite in a commercial building and two have set up food trucks outside of their old locations.

Four businesses — Mr. Fries Man, Taqueria Habanero, Hanami and the UPS Store — have been invited to reopen at the now-vacant site at 8147 Baltimore Avenue. That  property is slated to be converted from a strip mall to a student apartment complex, scheduled to open in 2027.

The rest have closed temporarily while they look for new spaces or have gone out of business for good.

“I think all of the merchants wanted to stay [in the city],” Michael Williams, College Park’s director of economic development, said. The Office of Economic Development has funding available through its Business Attraction and Retention program to help businesses relocate within the city. 

But only three displaced businesses have taken the city up on its offer. Laser Essentials, Taqueria Habanero, and the UPS Store have all confirmed they intend to stay within the city limits by signing new leases or making a down payment on a food truck.

“We didn’t get many people wanting to enter into new … leases, borrowing hundreds or thousands of dollars to reestablish themselves in places throughout the city,” Williams said.

Austin-based LV Collective, the owner of the shopping center, sent tenants 60-day closure notices last August. The real estate development firm has started planning a 299-unit student housing complex for the site which is slated to open fall 2027.

Losing businesses formerly located in the plaza has caused a lot of controversy in the community. 

“Immediately, there was an uproar,” Williams said. “We got a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails, a lot of visits at city hall letting us know that this closure was a noted event.”

Town Hall Liquor & Bar, an iconic College Park gathering place, closed on March 22 after an extension of its move-out date, according to a post on its Facebook page. The liquor store and bar had been operating at that location since 1949.

After businesses received the closure notice, LV Collective forgave tenants’ outstanding rent and paid their current rent, extended move-out timelines and paid relocation costs, according to Kristen Hendrix, LV Collective’s spokesperson.

“Every tenant was compensated in some way,” she said.

Some tenants worked directly with the city to secure new space in College Park. Laser hair-removal business Laser Essentials, for example, received a $23,000 grant from the city to move to a suite on Baltimore Avenue.

Taqueria Habanero’s bright yellow truck is stationed in the shuttered plaza’s front parking lot and is open for business. It received $20,000 from the city, after making a down payment on the truck, Williams said. 

But the truck attracts fewer customers than it did when the Mexican restaurant was still located in the building, according to Catalina Castillo, who had been an employee of the restaurant since before the pandemic. Weekends are still busy, said Castillo, who now works out of the truck.

The restaurant is working with the city to move into what was once a Jimmy John’s on Baltimore Avenue by the end of summer. The business has received an additional $30,000 from the city to help with the relocation, Williams said.

The UPS Store moved its business operations to its other location in the University of Maryland’s Stamp Student Union and received $10,000 from the city.

Some other businesses have permanently shut down. 

The high costs of rent and commercial leases in College Park were a strong deterrent for business owners who might have preferred to stay in the city, Williams said, especially compared with what they paid at the Campus Village Shoppes.

The age and condition of the plaza had resulted in lower rents and more affordable leases in the past, according to Williams.

“Most of the places in the Campus Village were old, so they were due for either renovation or total rehabilitation of the property,” Williams said. “You’re not going to get it [elsewhere for] that cheap.”

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