Rep. Waters, Council-members Perry and Parks, CDD Mgr. Benbow, Bobbie Parks, city officials and the community witnessed the final demolition of Marlton Square The demolition An aerial view Marlton Square (ALL PHOTO CREDITS: MALCOLM ALI) After almost two decades of decadence, disrepair, "ghettorizing and vandalizing, this prime piece of urban real estate appears to be on the road toward rehabilitative recovery and upward mobility ... the community is watching and waiting. Last Thursday (August 4), Marlton Square (MS) welcomed a gathering of elected city and state officials, city developers and the community. Councilmember Bernard C. Parks (in whose 8th district MS sits) and Congresswoman Maxine Waters announced the beginning of the highly anticipated, decades-long demolition of the 20-acre dilapidated shopping center. The Marlton Square project has been an eyesore for so long that the community is regarding this latest demolition and development go-ahead with cautious optimism. As the city's most long-awaited development project that has transcended several city administrations, plans that signal an actual start of the demolition process of the run-down buildings in the shopping center, are welcoming news. As explained at a news conference held at the site and attended by, in addition to Parks and Waters, many other public officials including Council-woman Jan Perry, CDD's Richard Benbow and Commissioner Valerie Shaw. MS, formerly known as the Santa Barbara Plaza, has been calling for a change since the early 1980's. Then Mayor Tom Bradley was one of the first to call for renovations. Former Laker and present businessman/entrepreneur, Magic Johnson, bought the rights to MS in 1996 but lost them in 2002 to the development group, Capital Vision Equities. "Marlton Square will soon have a plan that will have a significant job creation and a significant retail commercial aspect to it," said Parks. "It will not have the over abundance of housing as was the plan several years ago, but we're looking forward to what the community had asked for-a number of retail stores... also a major job creation component." For Waters, who has also invested time, energy and support in this community for many years, the MS turnaround is a welcoming sight and who hopes that this is the beginning of true change in the community. "The demolition that took place here today to begin the development for Marlton Square and Buckingham Place is absolutely a miracle; it has been a long time in coming. This community has waited so long, to have this 20-acre development take place," said Waters. Parks added the following statement: "This community has watched for nearly two decades, as Marlton Square fell into disrepair and became an eyesore, attracting a variety of problems like illegal dumping, arson and vandalism. Today, we can finally turn the page on the problems of the past, and begin a new chapter as we clear the way for the future," he concluded. And with that, the heavy demolition equipment began tearing down the remaining buildings, as water-hoses sprayed the buildings to control and contain the spread of demolition debris. As one of the city officials Perry, the 9th district council-member (who is also a mayoral candidate) said, "It is exciting to see the Marlton Square project take this significant step forward. When completed, it will bring much needed retail to our community. I commend my colleague Councilmember Parks for his leadership and tenacity. This has been a complex project and he has worked hard to see it through," said Perry, the Council President Pro Tempore.And as general manager of the Community Development Department, Benbow will be working very closely with the demolition and eventually the development team. He said, " I'm very encouraged by the fact that we (L.A. City) owns enough of the property to begin the demolition; we still have a challenge ahead of us getting a developer and a project that will provide the jobs and the services that we need in the community. The strategy has switched since we had the problems with the previous developer ... and the bank that financed him ... both filing bankruptcy. The control of the property went beyond the city." Relative to the ownership of the property, Benbow said, "It is CRA" (the Community Redevelopment Agency, a department within the city of Los Angeles), "and they are actually conducting the transaction."The MS demolition/development renaissance comes at a time when the Crenshaw District, as well as most of South L.A. in general, is experiencing a renewal. New businesses, retail stores, produce markets and rail lines are being implemented in the community thanks to developers like Capri Urban Partners, the L.A. City Council and the Crenshaw Visioning Project.At present, over 90% of a senior housing apartment complex on the western border, has been completed. It is the Buckingham Place Senior Apartments, a three building complex with 180 apartments for low-income seniors. In 2010, Meta Housing signed a contract to complete building on the complex beginning in spring of 2011. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has provided $8.5 million in federal funding, which generated 65 jobs in construction.Finally, the duration of the initial phase of the construction is expected to be approximately five months. During that time, heavy equipment activity at the site and on the streets is expected. Also there will be noise from the heavy equipment and demolition. With the joint effort of Councilmember Parks, the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, and the helping hands of the mayor's office and the community, the Crenshaw District is one step closer in renewing the beauty to its community.Congresswoman Waters breathed a sigh of relief and said, "I'm very pleased for Bernard Parks that he has been able to pull this off." ALYSHA CONNER also contributed to this article.