It was a long time coming, but the new Juanita Tate Marketplace at last is open in South L.A. Residents no longer have to drive far from their community to stop for dessert at Yogurtland, buy medicines at a CVS Pharmacy and savor fresh fruits, vegetables and Mexican delicacies at the 40,000-square-foot Northgate Market – all of which now are located at the new strip mall on the southwest corner of Central and Slauson Avenues.
The shopping center is not only a convenience, it is a symbol of progress for a community that has been neglected for too long. Although today it is an impressive site, with bold colors and welcoming signs, a quarter of a century ago, it was an eyesore, a metal scrap yard that was condemned.
It was thanks to the vision and perseverance of Juanita Tate, a longtime community activist who fought for a better quality of life for South L.A. residents and helped lead the organization, Concerned Citizens of South Central, that the marketplace became a reality.
“Today is my mother’s birthday,” said Tate’s daughter Noreen McClendon, who spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony April 14 on behalf of her mother who died in 2004. “This project took 25 years to deliver. And today is the fulfillment of that.”
The marketplace also benefited from many partnerships, including the now defunct, Community Redevelopment Agency/LA which condemned the property, cleaned it with a federal grant and then engaged developer, Regency Centers, who worked on the project for about 10 years.
“We have waited such a long time for this to happen,” said Regency COO Brian Smith. “When we help transform an area, it is extremely rewarding.”
In addition, California FreshWorks Fund, a healthy food initiative funded by the California Endowment, awarded the Northgate Gonzalez company a $50,000 grant and $5.5 million loan to build the market and provide healthy food. Northgate has also partnered with Homeboy Industries and the Los Angeles County Department of Probation to provide young men and women a fresh start in the workforce.
“For far too many decades, this corner was a symbol of the disinvestment and blight,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at the marketplace. “But that is no longer the case. The Juanita Tate Marketplace is now a symbol of effective community revitalization.”