Parks proudly stands in front of one of his recent accomplishments: bringing jobs to his district
After Bringing a New Brand of First-Class Development to the Eighth District, what’s Next on the Menu for Parks?
By George Brown,
Special to the Sentinel
Not even the unseasonably cold weather could put a chill on the red hot happenings at the brand new Buffalo Wild Wings at Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza last Thursday night. Sure, the National Basketball Association’s All-Star Game was in town, bringing a smorgasbord of A-List celebrities to the area, but the real buzz was about the string of new businesses along Crenshaw Boulevard and the man who was key in bringing them there.
Councilmember Bernard C. Parks arrived at the event in his usual understated fashion. No entourage. No security. No need to take credit during this potential “look at me moment”. But, within minutes of arriving, he was swarmed by media and well wishers, who refused to let it go ignored that his revitalization efforts for the area are bearing fruit- in bunches.
“If you want to know what the opening of Buffalo Wild Wings, the renovation of Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza and other new businesses like Maverick’s Flat all have in common; it’s Bernard Parks,” says Ken Lombard President of Capri Urban Investors, LLC, the owner of the site. “His office played a leading role in all of it.”
Nearby residents are overwhelmingly pleased with the development projects; but more pleased with the types of businesses Parks is bringing to their neighborhoods. For instance, Buffalo Wild Wings officials say that their store in the plaza is the first casual-dining authorization grill to be built in South Los Angeles in 25 years.
Parks has also succeeded in bringing the first market rate housing project(The Bedford Group Condominiums) and first full-service grocery store(Fresh & Easy) to his district in a quarter century.
“We are offering our constituents the same chance that people get who live north and west of us,” Parks says. “There is no reason why people in the Eighth District can’t have a first-class eating experience or shopping experience right here in their own backyard.”
Maverick’s Flat, which is already open, and Post and Beam, which is on its way, offer patrons a first-class dining experience and offer prospective employees an opportunity to get hired.
Under Parks’ watch, the Eighth District has become number one in the entire city in job creation, making employment increases in 2008 and 2009; the only district to do so. But, Parks is not content. There are a number of other development projects that he is spearheading that are also in the works.
Marlton Square- With help from Parks’ office, the project is now out of bankruptcy. Commercial Mortgage Managers (CMM) was selected to act as the servicing agent and now plans to raise the capital for demolition of the existing structures, which have become a magnet for crime. Then, they will sell the entire property on behalf of the claimants to a qualified developer.
The only portion of the planned mixed-use development that ever commenced construction was Buckingham Place Senior Apartments, envisioned as a three building complex with 180 apartments for low-income seniors. The building is over 90% complete, with appliances, carpeting and cabinets already in place, with work remaining to be completed in the hallways, stairwells and trash rooms. Construction to complete the building will begin pending approval from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which had provided $8.5 million in federal funding, and is expected to create over 65 jobs.
The Vision Theater- “L.A.’s Version of the Apollo Theater”- a $3.7 million contract has been approved for Phase I of the Vision Theater Renovation Project. In all, $22 million will be spent to improve the historic 1930’s art deco movie house. Renovations include restoration of the theater’s lobby, entrance vestibule, historic marquee and sign tower, new restrooms, upgrades to the mechanical and electrical systems, restoration of the audience chamber’s historic ceiling, installation of an ADA-compliant elevator and the creation of the Manchester Junior Arts Center, which will be constructed on the second floor. Once complete, the theater will be used not only for screening films, but for live performances as well, including movies, dance performances, concerts, plays, poetry and spoken word presentations. The Vision will be the cultural center for Leimert Park and the African-American community in Los Angeles. Future renovations for Phases II through IV will include restoration of the audience chamber, the addition of new dressing rooms, new audio equipment and stage lighting, an orchestra pit and construction of a fly loft above the stage, to allow for full-scale theater productions.
Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza- A $30 million upgrade is underway for Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza and the addition of new movie theaters and several restaurants(including the previously mentioned Buffalo Wild Wings and Post and Beam) to the existing mall. The plans call for a vibrant, brand-new interior design program, featuring a dining terrace and live entertainment performance area, as well as extensive exterior building, site and landscape improvements throughout the 43-acre property. The renovation will be completed before the 2011 holiday season.
As part of the immediate investment, the current movie theaters will be transformed into a modern multiplex featuring state-of-the-art amenities, digital technology and 3-D screens.
The initial renovation also includes much-needed new amenities for the community, including a children’s play area, seating areas, a new community room and concierge services with a broader range of services. Other improvements include new family restrooms, a new specialty kiosk and cart program and signage.
Norman O. Houston Park- A new jogging path, fitness equipment, lighting, playground and parking lot are already in place at Norman Houston Park. A ribbon cutting is scheduled in the coming weeks.
Broadway/Manchester- Negotiations are underway to develop the entire corner of Broadway and Manchester. An alternative L.A. County school for between 30 and 50 girls is already up and running.
Manchester/Vermont- After no activity for 12 years, Parks put a $100 million county services building in the area that services 25,000 clients in the surrounding mile. The remaining six acres will be developed with a drug store/market/restaurant as soon as the property comes out of eminent domain.
39th Street and Western Avenue- A massive renovation that included a refurbished park, new library and a dialysis center is underway.