The Baldwin Hills area had always been the highlight of the South LA area after being nicknamed the “Black Beverly Hills.” It earned its moniker by being one of the largest and wealthiest Black neighborhoods in LA.
Before the Civil Rights Era, Baldwin Hills was a White populated neighborhood as anyone not of the Caucasian race was forbidden from owning or occupying properties in View Park and surrounding communities due to racial deed restrictions. The Supreme Court eventually overruled this law, and Black families didn’t wait long to take full advantage.
It was very dangerous for Black families to move into these areas because of the racial assault many of them experienced. Whether it was racist community members, racist cops, or a combination of both, Baldwin Hills was never going to be considered a home for Black Americans.
Black families move on up
Once the Civil Right Era ended, Baldwin Hills was populated with a vast array of Black people, which contributed to it being a beacon for the Black community in LA. Now everything wasn’t peaches and cream, and it took a lot of help and support from the Black community for Baldwin Hills to overcome the many challenges it faced, but it stood tall and became the home of several famous Black residents, including Ray Charles, Roxie Roker, Norm Nixon, Debbie Allen, and many other notables.
Soon the area may also become a workplace for famous African-Americans. The Stocker Street Creative project is designed to change the lives of many creatives, leading to an influx of Black talent from the entertainment industry.
Black creatives become the focus
The Stocker Street Creative project is funded and run by a Chicago-based company called 4S Bay Partners LLC. Their goal is to build a community-focused creative campus consisting of entertainment, technology, and TV/film production studios for Black creatives. Another goal of theirs is to create and boost the ecosystem for the surrounding Black communities as this campus is to be built right on Stocker Street.
With the help of the Pan African Film Festival, Pantheon Business Consulting LLC, among other partnerships, 4S Bay created a team of diverse Los Angeles natives to spearhead the project.
“I am president of Pantheon Business Consulting, and we focus on community opportunity, and we work with corporations,” said LA native Stan Washington. “They are interested in partnering with our community. We started working with 4S Bay Partners, whose primary focus is giving back and supporting communities of color.
“This is their largest project up to date, but it started small as originally the idea was supposed to be a production studio, But things changed once we realized we wanted to build a place for creative’s to do major film work.”
The development team in charge of this project are all people of color and LA natives. The process of building this team was intentional to develop communities of color.
“This warranted us utilizing people in the community, and I’m excited to work with several talented individuals from Baldwin Hills, View Park, Crenshaw, and the surrounding areas,” Washington said. “We did not want to make the same mistake as other developers who came here. They don’t engage with the community until it’s time to check that box. We wanted to build a process that was inclusive and allowed us to earn the right to move forward with the project. The project is a “Byright,” which means we have the right to build, but we wanted to approach it by making sure each part of the development gets community input and community feedback.”
Washington went into detail about what the project will and can do for the community.
“Our objective has been to drive economic development through the entertainment industry as there is a significant amount of creatives in our community,” he said. “We want to have a part in driving the creative economy in Los Angeles and build a place for our creatives to thrive and develop their talent.
Community voices prioritized
“This will be a working studio with 50 thousand square feet of sound stages that can be broken up to make smaller sound stages,” said Washington. “We will be allowed to do major Hollywood work, screening, and major work like the big studios. This will provide support for growing filmmakers as we are looking to make this more independent, the goal isn’t to partner with a major film company and have them take over the whole project. Now we are looking for a partner, but for one to come in, their goal has to be to incubate the many independent filmmakers who want to be a part of this project.”
Stocker Street Creative team and the Pan African Film Festival – the largest film festival for minorities – partnered to host the annual film festival event during Black History as another way to get local creatives involved with the project.
“This independent film-making focus we have around Black and Brown people is what led us to the Pan African Film Festival,” Washington added. “We see this partnership as a cornerstone when it comes to putting a working studio in Baldwin Hills. The idea is to take an active role and be a title sponsor for the Pan African Film Festival for the foreseeable future.”
Washington also spoke on the relationship he expects between Hollywood and the Stocker Street Creative project and how both should easily coexist sharing creative talent.
“We envision a campus that is in strong collaboration with Hollywood,” he said. “Again, our goal is to have a major studio partnership that is in tune with our community needs. We would be talking about hiring, production support, training, funding, and other ways we can support the filmmakers. We want to be a leader in this space and how this discussion can continue in Hollywood.”
While the Stocker Street Creative project’s main focus is filmmakers and the entertainment industry, Washington wants all creatives’ needs met.
“Film making and television production are the primary focuses, but we want the campus to be about creatives, that is why we called this project Stocker Street Creatives,” Washington said. “We also want this to be about the artist. Once we have the project up, we expect to have a lot of art, sculptures, and other types of art. This will help us create more dialogue and discussions with our key partners in Leimert Park, West Adams, and the surrounding areas. We expect both sides to mesh well together and increase creative economic development.”
Another way Stocker Street Creative is keeping the creative diversity on campus is by introducing retail businesses and food vendors.
“Our vision for the retail business is to have some fast-casual locations that are Black and Brown-owned. We want to create the right mix of small and big businesses that represent the fabric of the project vision. We want an outside environment where people can get their food and sit at tables to network and get their work done,” said Washington.
Local economic boost expected
The vision for the financial growth that is expected for the Stocker Street Creative project was explained by the development team at a recent charrette event video conference.
“Now, of course, this project will provide workforce capability, but we wanted it to be more than just a studio,” Washington said. “Realistically we want it to have an overall financial benefit to the community as well. The four areas we focused on to help create economic boosts in the community are arts, culture, construction and industry.”
The team will be holding a construction summit in June for community members to engage with the construction site of the project. They are also focusing on industry and career opportunities, working with partners like The Los Angeles Urban League, which will provide job training and internships for the companies coming in and doing the work on the project, holding them accountable to hiring within the community and creating a diverse workforce.
Business development will focus on helping create long-term incubation of business and how to create and retain the benefits in the area.
The Stocker Street Creative project won’t be completed until 2024, as many things are still being planned. Washington is encouraging community members to contribute to and give feedback on the project.
“Over the next two months, we will be doing design reviews like going around to key HOA’s (home owners associations) and community groups and associations to meet with them to share the actual designs of the building,” he said.
For more information and to send thoughts and suggestions towards the project, visit the team’s website at https://stockerstreetcreative.com.