Survey finds concerns over displacement, rent increases when Purple Line is built
Ever since Carlos Perozo opened his tax preparation firm ZP Tax in 2007 in Long Branch, he has catered to a clientele of immigrants.
He says he enjoys operating in the community with the state’s second highest immigrant population, but that could change for him and other small minority business owners. They fear the Purple Line, the proposed 18-mile rail line from Bethesda to New Carrollton, could displace their businesses.
Perozo joined other small business owners in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, some foreign-born, in arguing for protection and better communication with the Maryland Transit Authority over the fallout from the line’s construction in Long Branch, Takoma Crossing and Langley Park.
The business owners teamed up with CASA of Maryland, an advocacy group, in releasing a study that suggests that a majority of businesses fear having to move when construction begins and later face rent increases when the line opens.
Dubbed the International Corridor, the communities of Langley Park in Prince George’s County and Long Branch and Takoma Langley Crossroads in Montgomery County, are home to a number of small businesses — West African tailors, East Asian grocery stores and Indian and Salvadoran restaurants — most of which pay between $1,000 and $4,999 in rent per month, and whose leases expire in the next five years.
“Our rents are going to be unaffordable,” Perozo said. “What’s going to happen to us?”
Fears of displacement do not end with the businesses. If the cost of living increases in the communities surrounding the Purple Line, customers who have come to rely on the small businesses also could be forced to move elsewhere, said Danny Santacruz, owner of America Hair Salon in Langley Park.
“We’re kind of convinced we’re going to look for a new place,” he said.
More than nine of 10 of the businesses interviewed for the survey lease their properties, rather than own them.
Zorayda Moreira-Smith, a lawyer for CASA de Maryland who helped prepare the study, argued that in preparation of the Purple Line in 2020, local and state government should begin reaching out to small business owners with rental assistance and subsidies for inflation.
Michael Madden, project manager of the Purple Line said the MTA is continuing to reach out communities near the Purple Line stations and has already begun working with both counties to address community concerns.
Any decisions about offering incentives or benefits to local businesses that will be affected by the rail line will have to wait until a record of decision is issued by the Federal Transit Administration, which would move the project into the construction phase, he said.
CASA of Maryland and the business owners are not against the Purple Line, and look forward to the increased access to public transportation, so long as it is not at the expense of the communities, said Moreira-Smith.
“If it’s going to come to our determent, we can’t support it,” she said.