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Crenshaw Corridor may help redefine Black Los Angeles


Major changes are underway

Drivers on Crenshaw Boulevard, cannot help to note that the old, brick West Angeles Church of God in Christ has been torn down; new apartments have sprouted; and the mall has lost its three anchor tenants in the last few years.

Some believe these changes signal an important paradigm shift — a modernization of the community — not the demise of the Crenshaw Corridor.

As for West Angeles, which has grown to become an internationally known church with a large congregation, it is now housed in a modern cathedral building just down the street from its old site.

“That was always bishop’s vision,” Bishop Charles Blake II said, speaking of his father’s plans during a recent Community Briefing zoom forum. “We’re not going anywhere.”

The Crenshaw Corridor, long described as the Black backbone of Los Angeles, is included in two City Council Districts. District 10, lead by Councilmember Heather Hutt, includes Crenshaw Boulevard between Olympic Boulevard and Vernon Avenue, while District 8, lead by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, includes Crenshaw Boulevard between Vernon Avenue and the Florence Boulevard area, just before Inglewood.

The West Angeles church has been a champion of the Crenshaw Corridor—instrumental in uplifting the tenor of the area through programs like its Community Development Corporation, which seeks to promote social change.

Other forum attendees agreed with Blake that the corridor is evolving.

“This community specifically has been a center of activity,” said Kyle Winston from Los Angeles City Planning. He is in charge of project review on the West-Adams-Baldwin-Hills-Leimert Community Plan. “It’s important that we support the Crenshaw Corridor and West Adams areas.”

The plan area, updated in 2016, encompasses the Crenshaw District and the neighborhoods of Leimert Park, Hyde Park, Jefferson Park, Mid-City, West Adams and Arlington Heights. (West Adams - Baldwin Hills - Leimert Community Plan | Los Angeles City Planning (

In essence, the plan hopes to promote the region’s health and sustainability by encouraging a mix of uses providing jobs, housing, goods and services, as well as access to open space, all within walking distance of the MidCity/Exposition and Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Transit Corridor stations.

Participants commented that economic development in the corridor would be the impetus toward the growth of future small businesses.

“We’re getting affordable housing developments, but that does not trigger daytime sales,” said event moderator Michael Anderson, who explained that local eateries like the Hot and Cool Cafe want customers from six in the morning to six at night. “We keep losing the next generation of Black and Brown entrepreneurs.”

Anderson, who works in architecture and urban design, insisted that the city needs to make a lot of changes to promote the area.

“All infrastructure in Black communities is 100 yrs old,” he said, noting that some other communities have been re-wired and/or have installed modern utilities that developers need to start projects. “New sidewalks and streets have to be made to make developers willing to come here.”

The Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project is part of the area’s evolution.

A PVJOBS Visionary of the Year for hiring at-risk construction employees, Metro broke ground on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project in January, 2014 and in the fall of 2022 the 8.5 mile, $2 billion light rail line that runs between the Expo Line and the Green Line was completed.

Metro was the nation’s first transit agency to adopt a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with targeted hiring goals for a federally funded, Federal Transit Administration approved project valued over $2.5 million. PVJOBS, a local nonprofit, oversaw the rail line’s local, zip code-targeted and disadvantaged worker hiring program that was created as part of the PLA.

Metro has had several programs which offered assistance to small businesses impacted by project construction. Including the Eat, Shop, Play Crenshaw campaign. Other programs help with access to technical assistance, loan applications, advice on marketing and financial assistance to small businesses which suffered financial losses by project construction, not the least of which was the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

Jason Foster, president and COO of Destination Crenshaw, noted that he used to work at the movie theater there and has high hopes for that area.

“It’s 45 acres total,” he said. “They’re adding housing and keeping the existing mall to create the regional center it's meant to be.”

Foster noted events there like the Pan African Film Festival, jazz fest, book fair and winter wonderland events will continue.

“You’re going to see the revitalization, to bring it up, when they bring in housing,” Lombard added. “Macy's closing will not be a vacant building. Creative office space is intended there, but there will still be a strong retail component in the mall.”

Considering the fear Metro expansion created, Destination Crenshaw is designed to emphasize the potential for long-term benefits, according to Foster. The project is set to open this fall and is designed to connect the community, instead of displacing people. The space targets a 1.3-mile stretch of Crenshaw near Vernon Avenue, with pocket parks, hundreds of newly planted trees, and more than 100 commissioned works of art.

Foster mentioned that the mall property north of that on Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevards will be without gates, making it more inviting to those coming off the Metro stop there. He recommended more people get involved in the community’s future and set the foundation for community investment. Not dwelling on the sprint, but planning for the marathon by working on essential infrastructure questions.

“Why should we have to sacrifice aesthetic choices and design?” he asked. “Why don’t we force the conversation - to the quality of life questions we ask every day. As a voter, you own the public right of way.”

Panelists agreed that involvement in the process is key to the corridor’s future.

“Change is good, but it’s how we manage that change and how it affects those of us in the community and not be displaced or impacted.” said Sarah R. Harris, president and CEO of LA’s Black Business Association, noting that negative change could erode the culture of the area.

Harris recommended that businesses join her organization and become BBA community partners by forming collaborations and partnerships.

“Let’s pull tougher and let’s make it happen.”