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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

It will be a few months before Pupuseria La Familiar reopens

Written by: Sophia da Silva 🇧🇷

Pupuseria La Familiar located on Baltimore Ave on Sept.29, 2023. (Diana Rivera)

Bachata booms out of a speaker near the cashier harmonizing with the clanging of plates from the kitchen just as loud as the shade of orange on the walls. That’s the familiar experience that greets patrons of Pupuseria la Familiar but that welcoming ambience is about to leave College Park.

Pupuseria la Familiar is a fixture of College Park since 2007, situated in the Campus Village Shoppes, near the north side of the University of Maryland Campus. The Pupuseria along with the other tenants of the Campus Village Shoppes are being asked to leave at the end of the month for the construction of an apartment building.

Raquel Hernandez owns the pupuseria with her sisters and mother and talked about how the restaurant has become part of the community since being there.

“We opened, nobody in the area knew about pupusas,” said Hernandez.

Now Hernandez describes the pupuseria as a place where people of all backgrounds can come in and enjoy affordable food with a side of cultural education. Hernandez was clearly proud of the work she’e been able to do with the restaurant.

“Different cultures know about pupusas now because of us,” said Hernandez

Zach Wandalowski, a senior economics and international relations major at the University of Maryland, is a patron of the pupuseria who is not looking forward to it going away.

“We’d go into the dining halls every day, and just kind of dealing with the monotony of the food there. It was nice to escape,” said Wandalowski.

Wandalowski also talked about how the way that the Pupuseria la Familiar has allowed UMD students of all backgrounds to not only know but get to love Salvadorian food.

When asked about the next step for the restaurant Hernandez was clearly at a loss.

“We are here now and we have to, like I said, we have to continue,” Hernandez said.

Pylon Sign depicting all of the businesses located at the Campus Village Shoppes on Sept.29, 2023. (Diana Rivera)

Hernandez doesn’t think that the restaurant will be able to reopen right away, rather estimating that it’ll take a couple months or so. Hernandez also doubts that the restaurant will be able to move close to the current location because of the current rent prices in College Park.

In the last few years Hernandez describes College Park changing a lot. Around 16 years ago College park was more centralized around the Campus Village Shoppes which allowed good opportunities for the small businesses in the area, said Hernandez. Now there’s a lot more high rise buildings and development for the University. Rent has also risen dramatically, both commercial and residential, making it hard for, especially small businesses, to stay in College Park.

Alex Mullens, the coordinator of Latinx Student involvement at the university’s Multicultural Involvement Community Advocacy office, has also seen College Park change in the few years he's been here.

“There’s just a lot of development, it’s been interesting to see it go from a smaller college town to something with so many different big high rises,” said Mullens.

College park has been facing a housing crisis with articles documenting it since 2018. The University hasn’t had enough spaces to accommodate students on campus with the last episode of this saga being a viral video depicting a large room full of cots in Ellicott hall to attempt to accommodate more students.

Other than not having enough dorm spaces, an aspect of the housing crisis is the way that the prices for many of the apartments near campus are out of the price range for many students.

Mullens has expressed his own experience with the lack of affordable housing, both in hearing from students and when looking for an apartment for himself a lot of the prices would be similar to prices in D.C.

“Kind of makes me question, what kind of student can afford an apartment that costs so much,” Mullens said.

The new apartment building will be built by development LV Collective. LV Collective is an Austin,Texas-based real estate developer experienced in luxury student housing developments as well as multi family and office units. Some of their work includes Whistler in Atlanta, Georgia and Rambler ATX in Austin, Texas, according to their website.

In an email conversation with LV Collective’s public relations personnel, Senior Account Executive, Kristen Hendrix, at True Point Communications, Hendrix clarified that the development is due to be completed by August 2026. The space is also meant to serve the whole College Park Community including apartment and retail space and a community center for residents, non-residents, students and non-students.

“We chose College Park because of the vibrancy of the community and its proximity/walkability to the University of Maryland. We’re working closely with the City to ensure the inclusion of tenants that will continue to enrich the College Park community,” Hendrix responded when asked about the choice of location.

As of now Hendrix was unable to provide details about which tenants would be included.

Wandalowski is worried for the future of a lot of these businesses. Even though the city has said they will try to help the businesses leaving the Shoppes he wonders with the state college park as it is, to what extent they will actually be able to help.

“There does have to be an emphasis in retaining longtime institutions in College Park,” Wandalowski said.

Mullens shared a similar sentiment about losing college park institutions.

“There’s a lot of character and things that might make College Park unique that can be lost when you shut out a small business like that,” said Mullens, “What kind of businesses are going to go into a bigger complex that might be there and what kind of people are they looking to live there?”

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