After an eight-year push for approval, a Black-owned real estate investment firm finally got the “go ahead” on plans to redevelop the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in South Central Los Angeles.
The city’s planning commission recently approved a $700 million project by Chicago-based Capri Investment Group to restore and expand the historic shopping plaza, which has been dubbed “America’s oldest urban regional mall,” according to Black Enterprise. The lucrative mixed-use project is said to include an additional 961 condos and apartments, a new 400-room hotel, a 10-story office building, new retail shops and eateries. Moreover, the project would more than triple the plaza’s size to over 3 million square feet.
Capri’s plan already faces some opposition from local residents, however, and must still get final approval from the Los Angeles City Council.
“While there still is a governmental and community process to be completed for this large, complex and socially impactful investment, we believe its redevelopment holds the potential to become the new City Center for South Los Angeles, a chronically underserved minority area,” said Capri chairman and CEO Quintin E. Primo III. “The Planning Commission approval represents a milestone for Capri and reaffirms our commitment to diversity and inclusion as we seek to improve each and every community in which we invest.”
While there are those who fully support the project’s efforts, some residents fear that it could lead to gentrification and displacement, potentially harming the city’s low-income Black residents. Some residents also expressed worry that the redevelopment wouldn’t provide affordable housing.
Capri has agreed to ensure that 10 percent of the new apartments and condos are set aside for low-income earners, said Luci Ibarra, a senior city planner with the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. Ibarra added that since there are no homes at the site now, that no one would be displaced as a result of the redevelopment project.
“Right now, the city is experiencing an unprecedented need to produce more housing to alleviate pressures [on our existing housing stock],” she told Black Enterprise. “Projects, such as the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, can lead to better housing choices for all.”
To make the deal even sweeter, the investment firm also agreed with city planners that 25 percent of all jobs created during construction and operation of the new shopping plaza will be offered to local residents. For Primo, it’s imperative that his firm raise $500 million to $700 million to complete the rejuvenation project in an area that’s been “grossly underinvested and underserved” by institutional investors.
The plaza’s current anchor stores and all other retail shops will continue operating as the redevelopment project is underway, according to reports. The renovated center is set to be built next to a new Metropolitan Transportation Authority station set to open by 2019.
Primo is hoping to get the city council’s approval on the project by the end of the year.