Marlton Square…once upon a time, Santa Barbara Plaza
Marlton Square, also known as Santa Barbara Plaza, sits desolate with lingering businesses, waiting for it to be developed.
Currently awaiting construction and change, Marlton Square has become an abandoned stretch of business gone by. Once upon a time, Marlton Square was a bustling place of business for the Black community. It was known as the Santa Barbra Plaza (SBP), as it ran along the street, then known as Santa Barbra, now MLK Blvd.
Back in the 40s and 50s, the one-block, 22-acre shopping center used to be one of the busiest hubs of the South Los Angeles area. SBP used to be filled to the brim with locals coming to meet-and-greet and address their shopping needs. The shopping center had many locally own businesses, up to 230 according to some accounts, along with major stores of the day such as Broadway, May Company, Woolworth’s and Barker Brothers to name a few.
SBP operated in conjunction with the Crenshaw Center, now known as the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The shopping center brought in customers on the regular and maintained its relevance for decades. As time went by, both centers were beginning to show signs of much-needed maintenance. The Crenshaw Center would be saved in the late 80s but SBP fell to the wayside.
Many local officials, celebrities and community groups alike campaigned for and petitioned towards the revival of what would become better known as Marlton Square. The center went into a perpetual, developmental coma for years. The area became degraded and welcomed unsavory attention for years.
Recently, through the collective help of LA City Councilman Bernard Parks, city and community investors, Marlton Square is in a state of transformation and renovation. A slew of shopping centers, a Kaiser Permanente out-patient clinic and senior citizens home in underway.
The one-time hub seems to be coming full circle as it gets ready for its second wind. Hopefully this round, Marlton Square will come to be a permanent fixture where the community can come to have their needs met once again.