Community development experts commissioned by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas unveiled their final recommendations for taking advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalize Leimert Park Village, one of the historic centers of African American art and culture in Los Angeles County.
The 1.19-square mile neighborhood just west of Exposition Park is poised for a surge in new investment and economic development as a stop on the Crenshaw/LAX Line, slated for completion in 2019.
“I believe the train can be a tool for taking Leimert Park Village to a whole new level,” he said during a keynote speech at Transit Oriented Los Angeles 2015: Investing in Vibrant Communities.
“If developed right, sites along the Crenshaw/LAX Line truly have the potential to transform surrounding communities,” he added. “With open-mindedness and progressive thinking, we would be able not only to ease traffic congestion but to revitalize the economic fabric of these neighborhoods.”
It was on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in 2013 that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted to build an underground station at Leimert Park Village. He later tapped the Urban Land Institute, one of the nation’s most respected sources of objective information on urban planning, growth and development, to assemble a Technical Assistance Panel that would craft criteria and recommendations to guide investment in the community.
In its final report, ULI concluded “Leimert Park Village has all the key ingredients in place — an engaged community, strong political leadership, and an authentic and uniquely built environment — to enhance its prominence and prosperity while also protecting its cultural integrity.”
Among their key recommendations were:
- making improvements to Leimert Plaza Park and completing renovations to the landmark Vision Theater, so both can serve as anchors for cultural programming that would draw both residents and visitors;
- filling empty storefronts and surface parking lots along Degnan Boulevard with retail, dining, and cultural amenities, as well as housing intended for local artists; and
- integrating art into public spaces and making streetscape improvements such as adding bike lanes, lighting, and a paseo similar to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
ULI’s technical assistance panel included experts in real estate development and financing, land use planning and design, and economic development and marketing. They stressed their recommendations for “catalytic investment” and “urban revitalization” are “designed to enhance, not redefine, the existing character of Leimert Park Village as the cultural capital of the African American community.”