It was a moment to relish. Melida and Company choir harmonized to the sounds of “Get on Board,” while the Rev. Cecil Murray and Pastor Kevin Sauls galvanized the crowd with grateful prayers in an early morning gathering to celebrate the advent of a train station stop in Leimert Park Village.
Speaking to a crowd of about 100 assembled in the historic park, directly across the street from the future stop along the Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail line, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said, “You’ve heard the African saying, that it takes a village to raise a child? Well to paraphrase, ‘It takes a village to cause a train to stop in Leimert Park village.’ In other words, we did it together.”
The event also featured remarks by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council members Herb Wesson and Jan Perry, Metro Director Mel Wilson, Leimert Park business owner Jackie Ryan and Tunua Thrash, executive director of West Angeles Community Development Corp. Throughout the short program, transportation advocates , community activists and residents gave thanks, prayed and cheered.
“This is a community that people from all over town should come and visit,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was a key supporter of the stop and used his influence to secure both funding and important support for the station.He reminded the largely African-American crowd that many of the city’s Latino founders also traced their ancestry to Africa and that the richness of the area’s cultural offerings should extend far beyond its borders. Visitors to the city, he said, should “Taste the soul of this part of L.A.”
The gathering came one day after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted to approve $80 million in funding for the station in Leimert Park, as well as funding for a stop on Hindry, in Westchester.
Leimert Park, developed by Walter H. Leimert in 1928 and designed by the Olmsted brothers, whose famous father designed Central Park in New York, was conceived as a model of urban planning that is resurging today. Schools, churches, stores and restaurants are easily accessible. It is also visually appealing with utility wires buried or hidden from view in alleys and rows of trees lining its streets. It is a community designed with a classic town square, complete with a central gathering place at the park, benches and a fountain.
As it evolved to became the center of African-American life in Los Angeles, icons such Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ray Charles and Richard Pryor frequently performed at the nightclubs.
Residents and business owners have long argued that establishing a station there will help to revive a community that has suffered a great deal with the economic downturn.
“The Metro stop will revitalize the community and also create access for people who don’t drive,” said resident and health and fitness coach Antonia M. Routt. “It is also going to be an essential component for people with disabilities to learn to use public transportation.”
But it was a long struggle to get the station.
Two years ago, despite overwhelming support for a station from a broad coalition, the Metro board voted to build one only if it could fit within the existing $1.7 billion-budget allocated for the overall project, leaving the station’s future in question.
But civic leaders, neighborhood activists, merchants, clergy and the elected officials representing South Los Angeles, did not gve up. And earlier this week, the Metro board voted to support the funding motion co-sponsored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Villaraigosa and four other Metro directors.
The most recent estimate for the Leimert Park station is $120 million and Metro’s fiscal year 2014 budget contains $460.5 million in uncommitted funds—more than enough to safeguard against a significant cost overrun. Further burnishing the station’s funding prospects was the recent commitment by the Los Angeles City Council of $40 million toward the design and construction of the station.
An initial groundbreaking is expected to begin this year, with the station designated for the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and 43rd Street. The station is expected to be completed by 2019.
Resident Nicole Parrish said that the metro stop will introduce people from all over Los Angeles to a community that prides itself on camaraderie.
“We want to build this into a progressive township,” she said as she passed out flyers for the Leimert Park Farmer’s Market which happens every Saturday. “We want to see Leimert Park represented as something of beauty and of success within the African-American community.”