Lead Story West Edition

Mall seeks $700 million facelift

By Dorany Pineda

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — A $700 million plan to renovate the historic Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was approved June 5 by the Los Angeles City Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

The 43-acre project –– which now needs the City Council’s approval –– is considered one of the area’s largest private investments in decades. It will include a retail space, a 400-room hotel, a 10-story office building, 410 apartments and 551 condominiums.

“The passion and commitment to South Los Angeles by our community runs deep,” said District 8 Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson during the meeting. “This community has been waiting on this development for 10 to 12 years and it will provide the kind of investment that South Los Angeles deserves.”

The councilman amended the master plan development agreement from allocating an initial 5 percent of the rental units to low-income families to a required 10 percent. About 96 rental units will be assigned to families that make less than 150 percent of the neighborhood’s median income –– or $130,000 or less for a four-person family.

Another 10 percent will to be set aside for workforce housing units. The developer, Capri Capital Partners, also will have local residents fill 30 percent of the jobs during the plaza’s construction and preparation.

An analysis by Kosmont Companies estimated that the project will generate more than 1,700 full-time operational jobs and about 3,500 full-time construction jobs.

Quintin Primo, chairman and CEO of Capri Capital Partners, said in an email that an on-site job training center also will be built to support local residents, and that $2 million will be donated for workforce development efforts and job training for the area’s youth.

But Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, is calling this project “gentrification on steroids.”

“When you bring nearly a 1,000 market-rate units that the surrounding community cannot afford, you’re basically saying the project is not for us, that the project is intended to displace the people of the community,” said Goodmon, who has led the coalition’s efforts to stop gentrification feared from projects like the plaza’s renovation and the Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail project.

He added that the city’s black elected officials are participating in the cultural erasure of African Americans, forcing the community to try to “hold down the last bastion of black L.A.”

But Skipp Townsend — co-founder and executive director of 2nd Call, a gang-intervention nonprofit in South Los Angeles –– believes the renovations will open doors for overlooked residents.

“I am in favor of this project because the local hiring requirements will create employment opportunities for the people who are normally never considered for work,” Townsend said in a press release.

“I helped place former gang members at the Kaiser Permanente construction site in South Los Angeles because of the local hiring requirement for that project and now those folks are able to buy homes,” he added. “This project can help create opportunities for people that have been thrown away.”

According to a press release, approximately 200 residents from neighborhoods surrounding the project attended the meeting to support the project. Several labor unions, neighborhood councils, local businesses and community-based organizations also attended.

“I am excited the committee approved the developer’s agreement because I am an African-American small business owner that employs dozens of women directly from the community,” said Shauna Robinson, owner of Total Woman Gym, who will have a business in the plaza. “Without the approval of this project, I am concerned about the viability of the mall, and the loss of services and jobs for the community.”

In 1998, a shopping mall off Crenshaw Boulevard was converted into an indoor mall and renamed the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Although the indoor mall and nearby movie theater will not be demolished, other on-site buildings will be.

“We believe in South Los Angeles. This is an incredible community and we are proud to have owned Baldwin Hills Crenshaw for more than a decade,” Primo said.