South Los Angeles community group Downtown Crenshaw Rising (DCR) was denied ownership of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, also known as the Crenshaw Mall, after submitting a bid last spring. Leaders of the Black organization told Eater Los Angeles that their $115 million offer was the highest one for the property, but still wasn’t accepted.
The sale of the South LA mall reveals a complicated mix of activism and gentrification. In 2020, development company Brooklyn-based company LivWrk, which was affiliated with former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, placed a bid to acquire the mall. DCR and community groups built a coalition to ensure the mall and its development plans stayed under local control. Ultimately the mall’s current owner and brokerage firm DWS, a global financial services firm affiliated with Deutsche Bank, rejected the LivWrk bid. Pressure from DCR also compelled local development firm CIM Group to withdraw its $100 million bid in June 2020.
DCR’s $115 million bid included $34 million in philanthropy in the bank, and a proposal to invest in the local Black community, but DWS ultimately awarded ownership of the mall to Los Angeles developer Harridge Development Group, which has financial backing from Russian American billionaire oil tycoon Leonard Blavatnik. DCR told Eater that DWS consistently rejected them in favor of non-local and non-Black developers. DCR’s concern, according to Eater, is that “other prospective owners would further contribute to displacement in South LA.”
As a result of DCR’s denial, Spectrum News reports that the local community is concerned about gentrification in the area. "It’s really about facing gentrification," Damien Goodmon, one of the leaders of DCR, told Spectrum. "We’re coming together to assert that Crenshaw will be a Black space."
According to Spectrum:
The Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was one of the first regional shopping centers in the United States. It’s also known as the center of commerce for South LA. Over time, the historic landmark has had several owners.
Malik Muhammad, owner of Malik Books in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, told the news outlet that he’s worried about the eventual displacement of Black-owned businesses like his own. "This is more than just a mall. It’s a cultural hub," he said. "In this location here, we have a voice."
A DCR spokesperson said there is still time to stop the sale in the same manner as LivWrk, according to Eater. Sale of the property is reportedly scheduled to close this Friday (August 6).