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Downtown Crenshaw group fights sale of mall


According to an Aug. 25 blog posted by Downtown Crenshaw, the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Crenshaw Mall) has been quietly sold to developer David Schwartzman of Harridge Development Group.

“This is of course disappointing,” the blog said. “At its root, the decision by the sellers of the mall (public pension funds and Deutsche Bank/DWS) to sell to Schwartzman instead of the Black community illustrates that systemic and generational racism in real estate remains alive and well over 70 years after the landmark Shelley v. Kraemer Supreme Court decision.”

Since the mall had been put up for sale in 2018, Downtown Crenshaw—a local, community ownership collaborative—fought developers who wished to create an office campus, condominiums and/or apartments at the site. Downtown Crenshaw says they secured the backing of mission-aligned financial partners “who want to see our community uplifted, not uprooted.” The organization hoped to buy the mall and create an “urban village.” But it was not to be.

“From the beginning, multiple White-led institutions and the system that supports them have viewed our community’s 40-acre mall as an opportunity for White outsiders to profit from the centuries-long exploitation of Black people and systemic displacement of Black businesses and residents,” the blog continues.

The organization believes that the reason Schwartzman was able to buy the mall is because he was provided special treatment that Downtown Crenshaw was never afforded.

“They provided Schwartzman multiple extensions, reduced the sales price (furthering the gap between our higher bid and his) and allowed him to swap equity partners.”

Damien Goodmon, who brought together the community developers as the  executive director of the nonprofit Crenshaw Subway Coalition released a statement on the sale.

“Ultimately, the sale of the Crenshaw Mall is far from final,” Goodman said. “It is going to be litigated in the courts and reviewed by oversight bodies. In addition to Downtown Crenshaw evaluating our many legal options, we are aware of at least four lawsuits that are currently being discussed by public pension fund members, civil rights organizations, and another qualified Black bidder that was passed over.”

Pending that litigation, DWS ownership of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall is in the hands of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Partners (BHCPP), a partnership between Harridge Development, Access Industries, and Silver Peak with Schwartzman as the managing member.

The BHCPP project will be a mixed-use development that will not only have shops but will include plans for 961 housing units. The group does have a mandate to make 10 percent of these units affordable.

Schwartzman has said the community will begin to see major improvements to the site within the next 18 months, and that a new website will be launched to keep the community updated on the mall’s progress.