Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Ask any University of Maryland student, and they could probably tell you about the first time they went to College Park Liquors or Taqueria Habanero.
I know I can recall times spent at the Campus Village Shoppes, trying delicious birria tacos or drinking bubble tea. So can many of my friends and peers. With the proximity to campus, it’s easy to sample the variety of ethnic restaurants and businesses unique to College Park. There’s a quality to that little strip mall nestled along Route 1 — which has long been a source of memories for students and community members alike.
But that’s coming to a halt Sept. 30, when most of the tenants will be forced to vacate. Real estate developer LV Collective purchased the shops in 2022 with plans to build an apartment complex with retail space. The end of Campus Village Shoppes comes to the detriment of many with few resulting benefits.
Local businesses take the brunt of the blow, many of which have been operating there for years. College Park Liquors, for instance, is a three-decade-long mainstay, and Vape Exchange has been there for almost ten years. The businesses were given a mere 60-day notice to vacate, with a few exceptions for those with older leases. Not only did the business owners receive a quick turnaround, but many were originally told they would have until 2024. The owners of College Park Liquors even started a GoFundMe to help with costs as they plan to relocate.
These businesses give College Park its identity — many patrons know these stores well and remember them long after graduation. By forcing them to relocate, we risk College Park becoming a cookie-cutter, chain-heavy town. We risk losing the charm and personality that set this city apart from other locales. A bigger corporation replacing smaller businesses means less originality.
While new apartments might seem like a victory for students seeking housing, replacing Campus Village Shoppes causes more harm than good. Students often visit the center and enjoy its proximity to campus and other nearby housing units. North Campus residents who frequent the Campus Village Shoppes’ restaurants, nail salon or barbershop will now have to trek to South Campus for similar amenities.
Many additions to the College Park housing landscape have arrived in recent months and years.
The Hub, The Standard and Aspen Heights apartment buildings all opened this semester or are opening soon. The Union, another complex located behind Terrapin’s Turf, is under construction and will be ready for students by next fall.
Adding another apartment complex to the mix won’t solve affordable housing concerns. In fact, it will exacerbate the problem, steamrolling businesses in the process. Students have already expressed frustration at rent prices in the area.
This is just the latest in a string of decisions which have seemingly placed students dead-last on the priority list. In March, the College Park Target announced that it would be closing its doors. Then there’s the endless construction projects, which — while beneficial in the long run — cause inconvenient detours, increase on-campus traffic and hurt the campus atmosphere.
New developments such as the apartment complex in place of the Campus Village Shoppes will also translate to more construction along Route 1, further inconveniencing students and commuters.
Even if building more housing is essential, it would make more sense for developers to break ground elsewhere. Choosing to demolish the shopping center takes away community value, and it would be difficult to incorporate some of the businesses into the building itself, as liquor and tobacco stores can’t occupy the ground level of student housing.
This choice is one made to benefit city developers — not students or minority-owned and small businesses. The shopping center sits in Lakeland, a historically Black community where 104 out of 150 households were displaced from the 1960s through the mid 1980s. But today, it has a large minority population. If College Park is a multicultural city that condemns the erasure of minority groups, those groups shouldn’t be pushed out.
In short, this choice is putting profits over people.
For so long, the small businesses in the Campus Village Shoppes have been integral to the experience at this university. Taking them away not only robs us of those experiences, but it unfairly robs businesses of their community. College Park residents and students need more than just housing to thrive — we need the places that make the city special.
Tara Davoodi is a sophomore government and politics major. She can be reached at email@example.com.