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Small businesses in transit neighborhoods: should I stay or should I go?

Authors: Elina Sukaryavichute*, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Topics: Business Geography, Transportation Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Commercial gentrification, commercial landscape, light rail, small business
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cities across the US are increasingly using transit projects such as light rail as a revenue generating tool designed to attract and enable economic development around transit stations. The resulting increased accessibility, economic activities, and foot traffic around transit stations often lead to higher demand and competition for locations near these stations by both businesses and developers, causing increases in surrounding land values. This scenario presents a challenge for existing business establishments to keep up with skyrocketing land values or rents, to adjust their business models to align with new economic realities or changing customer base, or to remain open through disruptions caused by the construction phase of the transit project. Some businesses may either relocate to new markets or more affordable locations, or they may shut their doors, replaced by new establishments. This scenario can be referred to as transit-induced commercial gentrification, when it is spurred by transit. The extent to which new transit stations result in the closing or relocation of businesses has not been well documented in the literature, and the reasons behind these decisions are not well known. This paper explores the experiences of small businesses in transit neighborhoods in selected case studies of Charlotte, NC; Phoenix, AZ and Seattle, WA. It seeks to understand what factors contributed to businesses’ decisions to close, stay or relocate in/from transit neighborhoods, the differences in experiences among different types of businesses (restaurants, retail, coffee shops, etc), and generally seeks to contribute to understanding of mechanisms of transit-induced commercial gentrification.

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