Central Avenue is a vital artery at the heart of South Los Angeles with great history and a bright future! The legendary street includes historic landmarks like the famous Dunbar Hotel, Lincoln Theatre and the 27th Street Bakery. In the early 1900s, African Americans established organizations and institutions that defined and defended the community. Commerce, music and entertainment would go on to shape the beloved corridor.
This July 27 and 28, Councilman Curren Price will host the 24th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival, paying homage to what was once the epicenter of the jazz scene in the West Coast. Held along Central Avenue between King Boulevard and Vernon Avenue, the free, family friendly festival, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., features smooth and soulful sounds across four stages, mouthwatering food, a beer garden, eclectic mix of vendors and information booths, pavilions and more.
“For more than two decades, the Central Avenue Jazz Fest has been a South L.A. jewel,” said Councilman Price. “I’m especially proud to do my part in preserving the legacy and history of Central Avenue. I’m equally excited about the overall progress we have made to revitalize the Central Avenue corridor!”
During 2013, at the recommendation of the District 9 council office, Mayor Eric Garcetti designated Central Avenue, from Washington Boulevard and Vernon Avenue, as a “Great Street.” Shortly after taking Office in 2013, Price oversaw efforts with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power to convert overhead utility lines to underground — removing unsightly wires and poles along the corridor. Under his leadership in 2017, the council member introduced a motion to designate Central Avenue from Washington Boulevard to Slauson Avenue as the “Central Avenue Historic Corridor,” which also included ceremonial signs. Price also led efforts in 2019 to erect signs on the 110 and 10 Freeways indicating “Central Avenue Historic Corridor,” next exit.
During his tenure, the Northern portion of Central Avenue was repaved and a new signal installed on Central Avenue and 33rd Street to improve safety. Price is also championing efforts for pedestrian improvements on 87th Street and Central Avenue, which will include a pedestrian crossing and refuge island, as well as improved lighting at bus stops.
For decades, Central Avenue has been regarded as a focal point of enterprise across the spectrum, ranging from professional services, bakeries, restaurants and beauty salons, to name a few. To help elevate the business community, Councilman Price, in 2016, was instrumental in the establishment of the Central Avenue Historic Business Improvement District (CAHD) — helping to promote a clean, safe environment and attract consumers and pedestrians to the businesses operating within the district boundaries. The CAHD comprises 130 property owners and 188 individually assessed parcels of land on Central Avenue between the south side of Vernon Avenue and south side of Washington Boulevard totaling 1.56 miles.
In 2018, the CAHD Clean Street Program collected trash and bulky items, swept and power washed sidewalks and removed graffiti. Currently, the local organization is working on bringing free Wi-Fi Internet access up and down Central Avenue.
New business opportunities continue to boom with the recent opening of restaurants like Baby J’s Burgers, serving tasty foods like savory burgers, loaded-fries and salted caramel brownie milkshakes, as well as Delicious at the Dunbar, which fuses Mexican and Southern cuisine. In the past, Councilman Price has recognized “Legacy Businesses” that have been woven into the fabric of Central Avenue, including: Bowers and Sons Cleaners, 27th Street Bakery, Dolphin’s of Hollywood, New Hope Baptist Church, and The American Legion Benjamin J. Bowie Post 228. In 2014, Councilman Price opened a Business Resource Center (BRC) inside his District Office on Central Avenue and 43rd Street to provide local entrepreneurs and business owners greater access to services and training.
There’s no denying, Central Avenue has always been a thriving hub of art and culture. Demonstrating his commitment to public art, Price has increased the number of murals going up on Central Avenue. A handful of bright and beautiful murals now adorn Central Avenue and encourage walkability, including the “Penta-Loom: Ode to Soldiers” portraying the images of personnel from various branches of the military at the Benjamin Bowie Post on 51st Street; and the Central Avenue Jazz Park tile mural, located at 42nd Street, which pays tribute to Los Angeles’ rich musical culture that thrived in the 1930s-1950s along Central Avenue, where many jazz musicians performed. The tile mural depicts famous performers, including Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Clora Bryant, and others.
A new affordable housing development under construction, at Jefferson Boulevard and Central Avenue, was named in honor of performer Florence Mills who captivated audiences during the Jazz Age. The project will create 74 apartments for very low-income families and veterans. It also will feature a mural illustrating Florence Mills and the historic jazz culture that brought Central Avenue to life. Another affordable housing project on Central Avenue, a rehabilitation of a building designed by the famous Paul Williams, includes 40 units for individuals and families and features community rooms, computer lab, and landscaped courtyard with fruit trees and gardening space. Families of the Paul Williams Apartments moved in this past spring. The two latest projects along Central Avenue are helping to bring more than 110 units of affordable housing units to residents.
Dance down memory lane and celebrate the region’s rich cultural past and present this Saturday and Sunday at the 24th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival. The two-day festival will feature dozens of live performances from jazz legends, rising stars, and students. Performances will showcase various jazz genres, from artists right here in Los Angeles and from all over the country.
For more information, visit centralavejazzfest.com.