Anyone who has driven down Route 1 is familiar with the sight of No. 1 Liquors, the squat, unremarkable concrete building that sits defiantly at its post at 8200 Baltimore Ave., apparently unintimidated by the bright new high-rise apartment buildings that now tower around it.
It's hard not to be moved by such a striking symbol of fortitude. So when residents found out about the city's plans to buy the property and convert it into a small park, many of them were more than willing to express their disdain.
On Tuesday night, the persistence from residents paid off, and all mention of acquiring No. 1 Liquors was wiped from the budget.
Sarah Jazs, a resident of Hollywood, collected around 130 signatures from residents protesting the city's attempt to take over the space. Around 50 of those residents were present at Tuesday's meeting, packing the typically barren council chambers.
Though many councilmembers initially supported the idea of a green space, some changed their votes to align with the wishes of their constituents. Councilwoman Denise Mitchell (Dist. 4) said her responsibility was to represent her community.
"We need to hear you, and we need to hear you clearly about what you'd like to see College Park look like," she said. "The council, we represent you, and we need to hear from you. And you need to keep us accountable."
However, councilmembers Robert Catlin (Dist. 2) and Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3), said that cutting off negotiations with the liquor store's owner was preemptive.
"I think we have a willing property owner ... she hasn't said she's not willing to negotiate," Catlin said. "The city would be a very viable purchaser fo the property."
Catlin also added that the Lakeland Civic Association supported the city's negotiations, and that the Berwyn Civic Association had yet to take a position.
Councilwoman Stullich voted against the amendment on the basis that eliminating the liquor store was a positive step toward a larger Route 1 beautification plan.
"I think there's a lot of reason to believe and hope that [Route 1 is] going to improve significantly over the coming years," she said. "I do think it's very important to work towards having a more attractive Route 1 corridor and Route 1 gateway to our community."
She echoed Catlin's sentiments that axing negotiations with the store's owner would be premature, considering there was no way of knowing what would transpire.
"Green space is valuable," she said. "Green space adds a lot to our daily experience and it will add to our daily experience as we go up and down Route 1, which many of us do every day."
Ultimately, however, Stullich and Catlin were the only dissenting votes. The amendment passed 6-2, and No. 1 Liquors will live to see another day.