With threats of eminent domain nearing, Hunter Christiansen, the owner and operator of New York Sub Hub, has created an online petition through Change.org to save his business and the businesses of others that currently has over 19,000 signatures.
The creation of the petition comes after UNT has offered to buy out the properties along Avenue C for an estimated $2.5 million or exercise eminent domain. These properties include Campus Bookstore, Eagle Car Wash, Oriental Express, New York Sub Hub and Naranja Cafe.
It has been almost a month since these property owners received their letters of acquisition. However, many of the business owners are refusing to accept the university’s offer.
“We do not want to sell, we’re not interested in selling,” said Christiansen. “This is our 40th year in business and we don’t feel that it’s right that UNT can come in here and take our property just like that.”
Christiansen said he expects to lose many valuable customers if they are forced to relocate. The convenience of the shop’s location helps with the business since college students can walk over from campus, said Christiansen.
UNT will not be obligated to pay for business relocation expenses or lost wages.
If the property owners refuse to accept the university’s offer, UNT will exercise its right of eminent domain, which allows a government power to take private property for public use with compensation paid to the owner.
“We’re just trying to get our story out there,” Christiansen said. “To show how this situation is an example of how eminent domain is being abused.”
Many of the property owners of Avenue C are not interested in selling due to personal reasons. For New York Sub Hub and Oriental Express, the businesses are family-owned where the current owners were raised.
Oriental Express owner Luna Li has been a part of the restaurant business for years. The shop has now become a part of the family and means so much more than money, she said.
Specific plans for the lots have not been publicly announced. UNT Associate Director of News Leigh Anne Gullett said that due to “a university community of nearly 45,000 people, we have outgrown our existing space.”
“The campus borders severely restrict where we can seek additional land to build the necessary infrastructure,” Gullett said. “Our ever-growing community needs more classrooms, labs, and housing to continue delivering the quality educational experience our community deserves.”
While the university community is expanding, Denton students and residents continue to show their support to keep these businesses up and running.
Theater major and Naranja Cafe regular Emily Jones believes that the university is overstepping its boundaries.
“I think that it’s sad seeing UNT attack predominantly family-owned businesses that play such a huge part in Denton’s community,” Jones said. “When I think of Denton, I think of small, quirky businesses and small-town experiences. Not empty lots for parking more cars.”
Christiansen said the support has “been amazing.”
“From the city of Denton to people who have no idea who we are, but they see the story and they’re throwing their support behind us because they know that this isn’t right,” he said. “There was a poll on the Denton Record-Chronicle that started coming out in February saying that 93 percent of the people said that they support saving the businesses.”
Christiansen said he is confident the city is on the side of the businesses.
“The definition of eminent domain is supposed to be doing what’s good for the public,” said Christiansen. “Well, the public has spoken. UNT needs to find another solution.”
Featured Image: New York Sub Hub sits near the intersection of Avenue C and Eagle Drive. New York Sub Hub operated at its current location since 1979. Photo by Will Baldwin.