Mall sale pending
Community ownership of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza
Lisa Olivia Fitch | 10/15/2020, midnight
A rally was held across the street from the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza recently to protest the impending sale of the mall to LivWrk, a New York- based real estate company concentrating on mixed use developments.
Several of the speakers decried LivWrk’s ties to Jared Kushner and the CIM Group. Earlier this year, CIM Group backed out of an agreement to purchase the mall from the Capri Investment Group.
“”Even a blind man can see that the terrible trio of Trump-Kusher-CIM is trying to run the same play with a different uniform,” said Jackie Ryan, co-vice chair of the Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance. “Over half of the LivWrk projects on their own website show them as partners with Kushner, CIM or both.”
The Downtown Crenshaw organization successfully gathered together a coalition of community leaders and groups to stop the sale of the mall last spring to CIM. They hope to block the sale once again through community opposition.
An agreement to purchase has already been signed with LivWrk, but an actual sale has not yet taken place, according to Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and board member of Downtown Crenshaw, a nonprofit corporation which has worked with a development team to implement the vision of the community in a separate mall project.
Downtown Crenshaw submitted a bid for the mall, having assembled developers and specific plans touting community ownership of the property. But it was rejected by the sellers.
“We were not selected because of money,” Goodmon said, stressing the group made a competitive offer, with professional developers working with them. “They can’t say we don’t have the ability to bring forth the design. Can’t say we don’t have the legal acumen to do it.”
The organization made it to the second round and received an interview. But thereafter they were denied the opportunity to submit a customary best and final offer. Rally speakers agreed that in essence, their bid was shut out of a “club” they were not invited to attend.
“This is our 40 acres and a mall,” said Ryan. “Our community members will fight for the Crenshaw Mall.”
“As a community, we will fight, tooth and nail to get this mall into the hands of the community,” said Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference - Southern California.
According to community organizers, the fast-rising real estate value in the Crenshaw corridor is attractive to developers. But those community members do not want to see a development like the one happening a few miles away on LaCienega Blvd., where the Cumulus project by Carmel Partners is nearing completion.
“That’s not what this community is looking for,” said Goodmon. “We’re not looking for a bunch of Trump towers on Crenshaw.”
Goodmon and his cohorts see the mall as the synergistic center for the Black community. They plan to organize and strategize to buy the mall, stabilize it and redevelop it into a 21st century sustainable, 40-plus acre urban village. Downtown Crenshaw’s rejected plans reflected the mall’s operating standards of community wealth building, including a job training center, preparing residents for 21st century jobs in healthcare, technology and entertainment.
“A vast majority of those in our community are low income,” Goodmon said. “A family of four will make under $84,000 a year.”
Downtown Crenshaw has a petition posted on its website and is calling for community members to stand with them to back their efforts. It’s hoped that their offer will be reconsidered. Additionally, shares in the project are being sold, in the hopes that the community will take ownership of the mall.
“We have to multiply ourselves,” said Downtown Crenshaw action team leader Jan Williams. “We have to get community buy-in and raise community awareness of what we are doing.”
The group is planning a mall takeover from 5 – 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17 in the former Wallmart parking lot.