By Janice Hayes Kyser
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — A proposed creative campus in the Crenshaw Corridor would provide what is being called a “Tyler Perry-like” studio environment for budding Black and brown filmmakers while becoming a vital part of the economic boon that is revitalizing the area.
With 50,000 square feet of entertainment, technology and TV/film production space, 80,000 square feet of office space and numerous restaurants in a 5.1-acre park-like setting in the 3700 block of Stocker Street, developers say the creative campus will be a cultural hub for small and independent filmmakers and a gathering place for the community at large.
“This project will shine the spotlight on the enormous talent within our community,” said Stan Washington, president and CEO of Pantheon Business Consulting, the project developer who grew up in the area and still calls View Park home.
“South L.A. has always been a community of creatives, there are many people in the arts, film and TV here,” Washington said. “We plan to make it more vibrant, give it a home, allow it to thrive and create a sustainable economy.”
Washington said the team expects to break ground on the project late this year and complete construction sometime in 2024. He said Chicago-based 4S Bay Partners, LLC, which is financing the project, has already invested $100 million in the project, which mainly covers the cost of the land and initial construction. While he says the economic impact of the proposed project will be significant, he declined to say how many jobs it would create.
According to published reports, 4S Bay Partners reportedly paid $35 million in 2020 for a 3.27-acre property located at 3731-3761 W. Stocker St., which currently consists of medical, nonprofit and office buildings. In 2021 the company purchased a 1.85-acre site at 3701 W. Stocker St. for $24 million. Both properties are located in opportunity zones, a federal tax incentive aimed at boosting development in economically distressed communities. The parcels are also in close proximity to the future Metro Crenshaw/LAX light rail line station.
The Stocker Street Creative Project would join a host of other developments in the Crenshaw Corridor including the renovation of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, Destination Crenshaw and light rail construction, which are expected to improve the quality of life for residents of South L.A. and make the area a desirable destination for all Angelenos.
Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents Council District 8 where the proposed project would be located, looks forward to working with the Stocker Street Creative team.
“This proposal is yet another materialization of our firm belief that the Crenshaw District is home to more creative capital than almost any other neighborhood in the United States,” Harris-Dawson said. “We look forward to making sure the proposed assets integrate with the community and become an opportunity for people to realize their creative and entrepreneurial potential.”
Gina Fields, chair of the Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Development Council, which represents the area where the project would be housed, says although the council hasn’t taken a formal position on the development, there is a lot of community excitement about the potential positive economic impact it could have on the area.
“I commend them for the way they have been working with the community,” said Fields, noting that developers have met with the council twice and plan to meet with them again next month.
Washington says being a member of the community and building a team of development and design experts comprised of others who call South LA home, gives them a unique vantage point and personal stake in the project’s success.
“Almost everyone on this team is from the community, and like me lives right up the hill from the Stocker site. That gives us a keen viewpoint on what the community wants and needs,” says Washington who says the team will be conducting community meetings throughout the process to ensure residents are being heard. He added that a business incubator component that was mentioned at the time of the 2020 purchase is not currently a part of the development plan, but the team looks forward to discussing that possibility with community members.
“We have built an approach that incorporates the community and has put everyone in a similar mindset that it is time to control more of our destiny and to create an environment we can all benefit from.”
The Pan African Film Festival is already benefiting from the project with the Stocker Street team announcing its platinum sponsorship of the opening night festivities in April.
The opportunity to finance a project that will create meaningful social change is what attracted Jessica Sarowitz, founder and managing partner of 4S Bay Partners, a social impact investment firm based in Chicago, to provide the funding to make it a reality. As a woman of color, Sarowitz seeks out projects around the world that directly benefit people of color with much-needed facilities and resources.
She and her husband have set aside a billion dollars for initiatives that revitalize marginalized communities including converting a former convent into housing for at-risk college students in Philadelphia and establishing a foundation to make grants to communities in need. She says her firm’s investment in the Stocker Street Project is the first one of its kind.
“We look for projects that will contribute to changing structural racism and inequalities, as well as build a wealth-based ecosystem where all members of it can prosper.” Sarowitz said. “Stocker Street Creative will be an inclusive place where members of the local creative community can develop projects that tell their own stories authentically, and without diffusion.”
“The Crenshaw District is an amazing place with an important history of activism, entrepreneurship and creativity in Los Angeles,” Sarowitz added. “It has the people power, the brain power and the cultural richness that makes for a robust community. The Stocker Street Creative project will create a place for people of color to come together to tell important stories, stories that may not have otherwise been told.”
Gil Robertson, president of the African American Film Critics Association, agrees. He says his organization is collaborating with the Stocker Street development team because he supports their efforts to establish South L.A. as a part of the city’s entertainment eco-system.
“The Stocker Street Creative project has great potential to create opportunities for residents of South L.A. to be exposed to the many careers available to them in entertainment,” Robertson said.
That exposure and the career opportunities it creates for young talent is what attracted the Los Angeles Urban League to the project. The local Urban League chapter is also working with the development team to open doors for Black and brown youngsters in the entertainment industry.
“To succeed in a career in film, TV, music, or live events, there is no substitute for hands-on training and on-the-job experience with working professionals,” said Brian Williams, vice president and chief operating officer for the Los Angeles Urban League. “The Stocker Street project gives the Urban League a chance to give best-in-class training and career opportunities to young people who grew up in the shadow of Hollywood, but who otherwise wouldn’t have an entré to these lucrative backstage careers, Williams added.