Dunbar Hotel takes a step toward renovation

A who’s who of the jazz world — Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne — once laid their heads to rest in the Dunbar Hotel on Central Avenue. It was the center of the West Coast jazz scene in the thirties and forties; the first African-American owned hotel in Los Angeles.

In recent years years, the Dunbar has fallen on hard times as the neighborhood became better known for poverty and violence than a vibrant heart of Black Los Angeles. It housed low-income apartments, occupied largely by elderly residents.
image On Monday, CD 9 Councilwoman Jan Perry joined community, government, and private partners at the historic hotel to break ground on the Dunbar Village project.

“Central Avenue and the Dunbar Hotel have long been an important part of our Los Angeles history. It is wonderful to see the Avenue come alive again and know that this historic landmark will be restored for people to enjoy for generations to come,” said Perry. “Dunbar Village will preserve our shared history, create quality jobs for local youth, and offer much-needed affordable housing for families and seniors.”

According to Perry, developers were asked to create plans that “enhanced and celebrated the historic integrity of the Dunbar Hotel property, while offering quality housing and job opportunities for the community.”

Thomas Safran and Associates (TSA) and the local non-profit, Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD) were chosen for a partnership to develop the $29.3 million Dunbar Village development.

Dunbar Village includes refurbishing the Dunbar Hotel, including 40 units of affordable senior housing, and the renovation of the existing Sommerville I and II apartments, with 41 units of affordable family housing. All three properties will be connected to create the Dunbar Village, an 83-unit mixed-use, intergenerational community for seniors and families. image

The project with give jobs to local young people involved in the CRCD’s construction and trades training program. The CRCD estimates the project will create 158 construction jobs and 15 permanent jobs. Perry says the buildings will be Silver LEED certified.

A bit of history of the Dunbar, courtesy of Councilwoman Jan Perry’s office:
Hotel Somerville; owned by and named after the University of Southern California’s first African-American graduate, Dr. John Somerville, opened in 1928 to serve African-American’s seeking accommodations while visiting the City of Los Angeles. The hotel hosted abolitionist leaders, writers, and musicians, such as W.E.B Dubois, Langston Hughes, and Lena Horne. It became the focal point of Central Avenue from the 1920’s to the 1950’s, due to its high profile visitors and first class accommodations. The hotel was later renamed the Dunbar Hotel, after African-American poet, Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Until the 1970’s, the Dunbar Hotel created economic activity on Central Avenue and was one of Los Angeles’ epicenters of African-American thought during the civil rights movement.

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