South Los Angeles is undergoing rapid change to benefit residents

No longer a forgotten part of city

Merdies Hayes | 9/21/2017, midnight
When traveling north through South Los Angeles, the gleaming downtown skyline may remind one of sentinels that overlook an often ...

When traveling north through South Los Angeles, the gleaming downtown skyline may remind one of sentinels that overlook an often neglected community historically shut off from modernity. And while the City of Angels hosts the tallest building west of the Mississippi, and Exposition Park will soon witness a futuristic museum coupled with the “landing” of the space shuttle, the old “South Central” portion of town is undergoing a makeover not witnessed in many generations.

Fabulous USC Village

The change may have begun in earnest last year with the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Watts. Since then, nearby Jordan Downs is being redesigned from the ground up, and plans are in the works for “Mudtown Farms,” an agricultural collective adjacent to the housing development. These are only a few of the new development projects either ongoing or in the planning stages for the historically neglected community that was home to some of the city's first Black households arriving shortly after World War II.

The biggest new development so far is the USC Village, encompassing 15 acres at 32nd and Hoover streets in North University Park. The $700 million project is a public-private partnership with the lofty hopes of bringing together one of the city's poorest neighborhoods with one of the nation's wealthiest universities. It opened this month to offer three million square feet of student housing, retail, academic and green space. Local residents will comprise 30 percent of workers at the 15 new restaurants, as well as Trader Joe’s grocery store, a Target department store, and a pharmacy. Stipulations were made for preferential hiring of veterans, formerly incarcerated and/or “disadvantaged” workers, persons with disabilities and those with a history of homelessness. As well, USC has reportedly made a pledge of $20 million to the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund which is meant to offset concerns about how the addition to the neighborhood may drive up the already prohibitively high cost—and shortage of—affordable housing.

The USC Village is just one of several substantial construction projects in or near Exposition Park. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will undergo significant renovations after the 2017 NFL and college football seasons, and there's the soccer-specific Banc of California Stadium rising up where the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena once stood. Each stadium is expected be used for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

New sports stadium

The new soccer stadium, coming in at a reported $350 million, will host Major League Soccer's newest franchise upon completion, and is expected to provide 3,000 jobs (40-percent local hire, or 1,800 permanent and 1,200 during the construction phase), and add an expected $2.5 million annually to the city's general fund.

Honda of Downtown Los Angeles, 740 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., is expected to open by the fall of 2018 and become the Japanese auto giant’s biggest showroom on the west coast. The five-story, 210,000-square-foot dealership is expected to create a jobs program specifically for nearby residents. Officials with Honda have agreed to donate a minimum of $100,000 to Los Angeles Trade Technical College to help stimulate education in the automotive service-tech fields. They've also agreed to donate a minimum of $50,000 to the Figueroa Corridor Business Improvement District to initiate upgrades south of the Figueroa Corridor which is generally the heart of South Los Angeles.