Local group seeks to thwart mall sale again

Downtown Crenshaw Rising makes final effort to block bid

By Sue Favor

Contributing Writer

CRENSHAW — A local community group will go all out over the next several days in an attempt to stop the sale of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza to the Harridge Development Group.

Downtown Crenshaw Rising will hold a town hall meeting Aug. 7 and a “freedom ride” Aug. 15 to the home of Harridge CEO David Schwartzman, in an effort to prevent what the group says is a plan to gentrify and disenfranchise the historically Black neighborhood.

“There will be lots of community activity including more call-ins, petitions and radio ads over the next couple of weeks to make the point be well known: the Crenshaw Mall will be liberated Black space,” said Damien Goodmon, a Crenshaw-area resident and Downtown Crenshaw Rising board member.

The Harridge Group reportedly tried to close the sale of the 63-year-old mall last week, but was given a two-week extension by DWS, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank. That came after Capri Urban Investors rejected Downtown Crenshaw’s $115 million offer to buy the mall — the highest bid submitted, according to Goodmon.

Goodmon said this was indicative of the favored treatment Schwartzman and his fellow investors have been given.

“The fact that they have failed to close and have required so many extensions is a sign that the people are winning,” Goodmon said. “So we’re going to keep our pedal to the metal and push these horrible people out of our community and keep their hands off our mall for good.”

Neither the Harridge Group nor DWS responded to requests for comment.

Downtown Crenshaw Rising opposes the sale because Schwartzman’s financial backer is Russian investor Leonard Blavatnik, who has strong ties to former President Donald Trump. The fact that DWS accepted their offer shows that racism is at work.

How in the world is it possible that a Black community can come together to raise a historic amount of money, submit the highest bid, assemble a world-renowned development team and still not be awarded the right to buy our mall?” asked the Rev. James Thomas of the NAACP. “This is deep old-fashioned racism and an international scandal that should enrage the public.”

DWS has tried to sell the property for about two years. Downtown Crenshaw Rising has taken credit for stoppig two previous efforts to sell the mall, which was built in 1947.

LivWrk was the first potential buyer last year, but DWS rejected the bid. The CIM Group’s initial offer last year was approved, but that bid was withdrawn after pressure from Downtown Crenshaw Rising.

Both buyers were affiliated with Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to Downtown Crenshaw Rising.

Opposition has stemmed from a desire to preserve the longtime mall and keep Black business owners from being displaced due to gentrification, as has occurred in some surrounding areas. Downtown Crenshaw Rising’s proposal included plans for a park, an entertainment production district, job training facilities and office space.

“As Black people we have overcome tremendous struggles in America and we will not stop, we will not rest until our community and our mall is in our hands,” Downtown Crenshaw Rising board member Jackie Ryan said.

The Aug. 7 town hall meeting will be via Zoom call at noon. Registration information is available at downtowncrenshaw.com.

Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers, who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at newsroom@wavepublication.com.