A catalyst for revitalization in South Los Angeles

Jan 05, 2011

The intersection of East Adams Boulevard and Central Avenue represents both the past and the future of South Los Angeles. The area, once a bustling hub of the African American community, began a gradual decline in the late 1950s. Affluent residents moved away, neighborhoods deteriorated, and jobs and businesses were lost. With those businesses went healthy lifestyle and food options.

“The area became a desert,” said Vivian Bowers, owner of nearby, third-generation dry cleaning business. “A food and business desert.”

Decades passed before the community came together to rebuild the area, block by block. Today, the vacant building that marked the corner of Adams and Central has been transformed into a mixed-use development. The development includes 19,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, 80 affordable housing units and two levels of above ground parking. A new Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, committed to providing fresh food to the local community, occupies 80 percent of the retail space.

In addition to offering healthy fare, the grocery store has created job opportunities for area residents like Shelby Trice, a manager-in-training at Fresh & Easy. Shelby was one of 20 employees recruited from a local job fair. She enjoys getting to know the tenants of the development, who are regular customers.

The project was initiated by Meta Housing Corporation and its president, John Huskey. They wanted to build housing, but the City Council wanted to replace the market that once served the neighborhood. The resulting mixed-use development, backed by Council member Jan Perry, required 11 different sources of funding. Bank of America contributed $34.8 million in bond financing and tax credit investments, as well as the intellectual capital needed to bring the project to fruition.

“South Los Angeles has a number of needs,” said Garrett Gin, senior vice president, global corporate social responsibility, Bank of America. “This project captures so much of what is needed—affordable housing as well as fresh and healthy food. It’s all encapsulated in the Adams and Central project.”

The development at Adams and Central has become a beacon of the reemerging community. Since Fresh & Easy opened its doors in February 2010 and the housing opened in June 2010, three markets and a few mixed-use developments have sprung up in South Los Angeles. Area residents are hopeful that this ripple effect will create a more stable, successful community.

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