Harvest Party Mixes Pumpkins and Development Projects

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas greets a younger community member at the October 27, 2018 Harvest Party. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

Youth show up for face painting, games, and other activities at the Harvest Party. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

More than 200 people turned out for a fun-filled Harvest Party on the site of the mixed-use development slated for the intersection of Vermont and Manchester avenues in South LA. The site, formerly a blighted lot, had been converted for the afternoon into colorful, family-friendly area, with bright yellow benches and overhead canopies for shade. There were free pumpkins and face painting for children, mini-soccer balls for toddlers, free tacos and beans for all and healthy cooking demonstrations.

But this was a party with a purpose. Fulfilling a promise to keep the community informed and engaged as the affordable housing, retail and educational project slated for the site moves forward, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas — who sponsored the event — invited area residents to meet the developers who will be transforming the site.

A young community member selects a pumpkin at the Harvest Party. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

Bridge Housing heads the team which will be responsible for constructing and operating the retail, affordable housing, transit plaza and parking planned the site. Their partners include the Coalition for Responsible Community Development and Primestor Development, Inc. all of whom have deep roots in community and economic development across South Los Angeles. Throughout the afternoon, community members moved from the child-oriented events to booths where they casually chatted with the team and shared their ideas.

“This site has been a hot topic for 30 years,” said Juan Molino, editor of a local blog and newspaper. “There’s been a lot of heat over the lack of development in the past because we were sold lots of dreams by the past owner. But I’m a fan of what they’re doing here,” he said, gesturing to the developer’s booths and sweeping his arm to encompass the entire event. “This project is going to be good for us in so many ways.”

Planned for the 4.2-acre site are: California’s first urban public boarding school,180 units of affordable housing, a transportation careers training center, open space and 62,000 square foot of retail space. The school, which will be operated by the SEED Foundation, already is poised to become a one-of-a-kind pipeline for graduates seeking lucrative careers in the STEM and transportation fields.

“This project is designed to be an economic engine for this community,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “In particular, the school will give some of our best and brightest children the tools they need to graduate and either go to college or to begin a job for which they have been fully prepared.

The Empowerment Congress Economic Development Committee showed up to the Vermont/Manchester activation. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors

“We are laying the foundation for wealth-building on the Vermont Corridor, starting right here at Vermont and Manchester,” the Supervisor continued.

Lesley Poole, chief executive officer of the Seed Foundation also was on hand for the party. Poole, who is based in Washington D.C., has family ties to the Vermont/Manchester community and chatted easily with community members, introducing herself and listening to their ideas.

SEED runs the nation’s only network of public, college-preparatory boarding schools. SEED Los Angeles will be the foundation’s fourth school; the others are in Washington D.C., Maryland and Miami. The LA school will offer a STEM-focused curriculum for grades 9-12, and the school will recruit students from the local community and across the County, in partnership with the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“Success starts with the community,” Poole said. “Our goal is to ensure young people have agency, opportunity and resources. When people have the necessary resources, they can bring about the changes they want for their own communities.”

Community members play a large version of tic-tac-toe. Photo by Hugh Williams / Board of Supervisors