Businesses in the Langley Park and Takoma Langley Crossroads could benefit from the proposed Purple Line, said Jorge Sactic, president of the Langley Park Small Business Owners Association. That is, he said, if they survive the anticipated rent increases and revenue losses during construction of the $2.2 billion light rail system, expected to open in 2020.
“We’re worried,” said Sactic, who has operated businesses in La Union Mall on University Boulevard in Langley Park since 1999. “What are we going to do? Where are all these people going to go?”
Sactic said Langley Park businesses already have seen their rents rise because of the Maryland Transit Authority’s 16.2-mile Purple Line, which will extend from Bethesda to New Carrollton and include a Takoma/Langley Transit Center Station. The increased access to the area will drive up rent prices, and many businesses won’t be able to survive the loss of business caused by construction challenges, he said.
The Langley Park Small Business Owners Association was one of 22 neighborhood organizations to sign a letter urging the MTA to address residential and small business displacement.
Ronald Wineholt, vice president of government affairs for the Maryland office of the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, said the Purple Line stations would increase the desirability of nearby property, but it’s too early to tell whether that alone would lead to rent increases.
He also said it was unlikely there already would be hikes because of Purple Line plans.
“It’s a little speculative at this point to say with assurance what the impact of the Purple line will be on rents,” Wineholt said.
Since 2005, Francisco Escobar has served as owner of Ropa Colombiana, a clothing store on University Boulevard. He said he is uncertain about his store’s future because of expected rent increases and construction.
“We’re not against [the Purple Line]. It’s good for the area, but of course, we need to keep in mind we are micro-businesses,” Escobar said.
Escobar said small businesses should be eligible for subsidies or low-interest loans to help them stay afloat during construction.
“We want all the help we can get,” Escobar said.
Henry Kay, MTA’s executive director for transit development and delivery, said the MTA has been responsive to concerns in the International Corridor. For example, a section of University Boulevard between Piney Branch Road and West Park Drive was reduced from six lanes to four lanes after community members said that a six-lane roadway would endanger pedestrians, he said.
“The most important thing to recognize is that as a result of those kinds of concerns, the project has changed pretty fundamentally,” Kay said.
Small-business owners and residents have teamed up with CASA of Maryland, a Langley Park-based nonprofit advocacy group, to ensure the Purple Line is constructed in an equitable manner.
On Oct. 21, CASA of Maryland submitted comments raising concerns about the Purple Line in response to the MTA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.
“We’ll read and digest and respond to every single one of them,” Kay said.