Last night, the Coalition for the Fair Redevelopment of Wheaton responded to the release of the 2012 Wheaton Small Business Survey results at the monthly meeting of the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee (WUDAC). Members called for WUDAC to draft a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett requesting that the County outline its commitment to small businesses and the greater Wheaton community in writing regarding the upcoming redevelopment project in downtown Wheaton.
Approximately 20 business owners from the Wheaton Triangle were present for the release of the results. Presented by Wheaton Redevelopment Program staff member Pete McGinnity, the results identified parking, rents, and safety as the top three concerns of small businesses in the area.
Raymond Rose, an employee at small business Barbarian Comics that will celebrate its 45th year in Wheaton next year, delivered the official response from the Coalition. Rose said the loss of parking in Parking Lot 13 during construction would lead to significant loss of business, threatening the livelihoods of business owners in the immediate area.
“The big question we have is – are people going to want to come into the downtown area and shop during the construction phase?” Rose asked.
He also talked about the challenging decisions facing many business owners in 2013 and 2014 absent a clear commitment from the County and property owners – whether they should/can renew their existing leases given unaffordable rents and construction on the horizon. Businesses in the survey identified assistance with lease negotiations as one of their top three needs.
To alleviate these concerns, Rose indicated that the Coalition is asking for the County to create a construction mitigation plan as part of a written pledge for the Wheaton community, including the small business community. The Coalition also requested that WUDAC send to the County Executive a letter of support for the Coalition’s requests.