By Darlene Donloe
CRENSHAW — Downtown Crenshaw announced this week that the sale of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza to New York real estate companies LIVWRK and DFH Partners fell through after the agreement to buy the landmark mall was terminated Dec. 11.
That puts the mall, considered an anchor in the Black community, back on the market, yet again.
LIVWRK and Capri Urban Investors, who currently owns the mall, did not immediately return requests for comment.
Downtown Crenshaw and other local activists are claiming victory for the second time this year for preventing an outside developer from buying the 869,000-square-foot mall that has been located on Crenshaw Boulevard since 1947.
“This is a tremendous Black community victory and testament to the power of the people,” said Niki Okuk, board president of Downtown Crenshaw Rising. “Downtown Crenshaw stood up and defeated LivWrk-DFH Partners, an unqualified, out-of-town, Trump-Kushner development partner, who sought to do harm to our beloved Crenshaw. We have shown that when we come together to defend our community, not even the powerful business partners and close friends of the president’s family can defeat us.”
LIVWRK-DFH Partners’ bid to buy the mall collapsed after it was met with enormous pushback from the Black community due to the real estate company’s connections with the Donald Trump organization through dealings with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Last June, Downtown Crenshaw was also instrumental is preventing the sale of the mall to CIM Group, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment group. Deutsche Bank had accepted a $100 million bid for the property from CIM, but it was squelched after Downtown Crenshaw and other community activists found out about the company’s partnership with Kushner, who is President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.
“This is another victory, but it’s now up to all of us to come together and come up with a plan because we can not let this opportunity pass us by,” said the Rev. William D. Smart Jr., president, and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California. “It’s significant that the community has been able to stop the sale.
“It’s now incumbent on leaders to come together and show what we can do and how we can build a mall. We have to do it in unity and solidarity and do it while respecting each other. Others have done it. It’s our time. Let’s get our egos out of the way and say this is what our community wants.”
The Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California, said he was “very supportive of Downtown Crenshaw.”
“The handwriting was on the wall,” he said. “We are so excited that LIVWRK heard the voices of the community and decided to bow out. It was a good day when they bowed out. The project should be within our community and should be designed by the community.
“It’s our mall in our community,” he added. “It should be a Black-owned community mall. It’s a staple in our community and should benefit those within. We want to make sure our community isn’t gentrified. At the end of the day, I believe in the voice of the people. They want a mall they can be a part of.”
In an effort to stop LIVWRK from buying the mall, Downtown Crenshaw, along with community activists, clergy, and civic organizations pulled out all the steps, applying pressure through numerous press conferences, marches and several rallies held outside the Beverlywood home of LIVWRK owner Asher Abehsera.
Abehsera admitted to previous dealings with Kushner but said neither he nor anyone else with the Trump organization, would be involved in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza deal.
Downtown Crenshaw said it had evidence that Abehsera, Trump, and Kushner were current development partners on projects in New York.
LIVWRK and New York-based DFH Partners had agreed to purchase the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza for about $110 million according to the Wall Street Journal. The mall’s Macy’s department store and IHOP restaurant were not included in the impending sale.
Downtown Crenshaw members sought to purchase the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza with a $100 million bid but were rejected in favor of the New York-based LIVWRK.
“The Downtown Crenshaw Rising development team of global award-winning firms backed by the best of investors endeavors to sit down with the public pension funds to identify a win-win solution,” said Damien Goodmon, a Downtown Crenshaw board member. “Our offer remains 5% over the next most credible offer.”
He questioned why Downtown Crenshaw and other more qualified Black teams were passed over to buy the mall in favor of LIVWRK, who he deemed a less qualified developer.
In a statement released Dec. 15, Downtown Crenshaw said, “This is now the fourth unsuccessful attempt to sell the mall in two years. Downtown Crenshaw remains steadfast in its desire to purchase the mall, place it under community control, and redevelop it using principles of community wealth building.”
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.