The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) gave a Phil Freelon Professional Design award to local design firm, Perkins+Will, for the “Destination Crenshaw” project at the conclusion of the NOMA’s 47th Annual conference on Oct. 20 in New York City.

Destination Crenshaw is designed to be a “public art and cultural experience that will pay tribute to the long-standing reputation of the neighborhood as a creative incubator, as well as Black LA’s impact on popular culture and change.”

The NOMA award is named after Phil Freelon, who was one of the principal architects for the Smithsonian National Museum of African- American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C. The NOMA site describes Freelon as one of the most influential African-American architects of our time.

“From the start of his career until the end, Phil Freelon was an inspiration to all,” said NOMA President Kimberly Dowdell.

Destination Crenshaw is a conceptual work—yet unbuilt and scheduled to open in spring 2020—remains a controversial undertaking.

“The unfortunate history of massive outdoor art projects like this, as perhaps most well illustrated with the High Line in New York City, is that they end up fueling the housing price increases that push out and price out the residents of color that they say they’re going to serve,” said Damien Goodmon of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.

“To date, no conversation around Destination Crenshaw has focused on this real possibility,” Goodmon added. “And frankly, if $100 million is going to be invested on Crenshaw Boulevard, I think the community would rather it go toward purchasing the properties along the boulevard to be put into a community land trust to ensure that Black people will be in Crenshaw’s future. Not simply a memorial project to our past.”

Located along Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, which will extend from Exposition Boulevard to the Metro Green Line near LAX, the work includes several elements along 1.3 miles of Crenshaw Boulevard.

The project is billed as a celebration of the historical and contemporary contributions of Black LA and the Crenshaw community.

“These are their experiences,” said Zena Howard, a managing director at Perkins + Will. “These are their stories that we’re telling straight from their mouth into the built environment.”

In a promotional video, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson says the project will visually remind visitors that the Black community has put down serious cultural roots in Los Angeles.

“And folks will never forget who we have been to this city and who we are to achieve it,” Harris-Dawson said.

In October, the Metro Board authorized Metro to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Destination Crenshaw art and streetscape project and to provide $15 million to help fund a project at Crenshaw and Leimert Park boulevards, near the rail line’s Leimert Park Station. 

The project will include community gathering spaces, parks, landscape and streetscape improvements and locations for commissioned artwork. Destination Crenshaw is set to open in spring 2020.