Perched high atop a parade float on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Yvonne Ellett surveyed Crenshaw Boulevard, the once-vibrant retail spine of South Los Angeles.
She was disappointed by what she saw: tattoo parlors, marijuana dispensaries and boarded-up businesses.
“Our retail corridors make us look like we are poverty-stricken,” said Ellett, co-chairwoman of the Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Development Council. “That’s not necessarily the case. These are solid middle-class neighborhoods.”
The economic renaissances that have roared into neighborhoods like downtown Los Angeles, Highland Park and Venice have largely skipped over the south side of the city.
Now, there’s a grand vision to revive Crenshaw Boulevard, a stretch high in symbolism especially for L.A.’s black community.
The plan is to transform the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza into an “urban village” that would mirror Glendale’s Americana, with a 12-story hotel, office space, new shops, restaurants, condominiums and apartments.
Kay Benjamin, 65, of Baldwin Hills has pinned her hopes on the $2-billion Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail, believing it could bring a return of retailers to the neighborhood.