Kaiser to move in at Marlton Square

After more than 25 years of abandonment, plans for redevelopment and litigation, construction will finally begin in Marlton Square.

imageCouncilmember Bernard C. Parks proudly announced yesterday during an on-site press conference that Kaiser Permanente will be moving in to the current empty lot.

“Today marks a major achievement for the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw community,” said Parks. “Twenty-eight years ago, Mayor Tom Bradley mandated that the Santa Barbara Plaza be completely rehabilitated.

Now, twenty-five years later, we are here at the site once known as Santa Barbara Plaza, after many starts and stops to actually welcome a cornerstone and major tenant of the project Kaiser Permanente.”

Kaiser Permanente recently closed escrow on an 8.65-acre portion of land at 4033-4081 Marlton Avenue.

“Now we can begin planning an outpatient medical office building that brings medical services closer to our members living and working in the area,” stated Norair Jemjemian, Chief Operating Officer, Kaiser Permanente, West Los Angeles Medical Center.

Parks said the facility will not only “provide first-class health care to a community that is sorely in need of care,” it will “become an economic engine for new employees and provide a customer base for the surrounding shopping centers in the area.”

Councilman Parks, surrounded by community members, celebrate the arrival of Kaiser Permanente to Marlton Square. (Photos: Melissa Runnels)

Marlton Square was previously known as the Santa Barbara Plaza. In 1984, Mayor Tom Bradley first called for redevelopment of the shopping center.

In 1996, former LA Laker and entrepreneur Magic Johnson won the exclusive right to negotiate and spent five years working with the city through the planning and entitlement process, but lost the deal in 2002 to Capital Vision Equities, a development group run by developer Chris Hammond. Unfortunately, Capital Vision Equities defaulted on the project in 2004.

In an interview with Intersections South LA in March of this year, Carolyn Hull, South Los Angeles Regional Administrator for the CRA/LA explained “Marlton Square was a tremendously difficult project to move forward with because of the multiple ownerships…There were over 40 owners and 30 tenants that had to be relocated.”

Another big problem was that the bank that loaned Capital Vision Equities $36 million to buy up the approximately 50 parcels of land, went bankrupt in 2006.

When Las Vegas-based USA Capital dissolved, it left over $962 million in assets with more than 6,000 investors. After bankruptcy settlement agreement was reached on December 29, 2010, Commercial Mortgage Managers (CMM) – became majority owners, with approximately 80% control of the total property, with the CRA/LA in possession or negotiations with the majority of the remaining 20% of the land.

According to Bernard Parks’ office, CMM is currently in negotiations to sell the remaining acres of Marlton Square. Several bids have been submitted for the retail portion of Marlton Square and a developer will be chosen soon.

“We have narrowed it down to two and once we have finalized our choice we will begin planning what will be built on the rest of the remaining land. It is our hope to build sit-down restaurants and shops but nothing is confirmed,” said Parks’ spokesperson Brittney Marin.

While the announcement of Kaiser Permanente’s development of the land is an accomplishment for Parks, the city has to approve the plans before construction can begin.

Here’s a video of the annoucement, by reporter Melissa Runnels:

Here’s a Marlton Square history timeline provided by Parks’ office:image

VIDEO: The transformation of Santa Barbara Plaza

Photojournalist David Roy began taking pictures of Santa Barbara Plaza years ago. He used to marvel at how such central real estate could be ignored and allowed to deteriorate. He noticed the plaza was transforming at the same time that he began to recognize the beauty in the urban landscape.

Check out his audio slideshow, where Roy walks us through the transformation of Santa Barbara Plaza.

Demolition begins on Marlton Square in South LA

imageA smiling Bernard Parks watched as an excavator dug its claws into a dilapidated building at Marlton Square, marking what everyone hopes will be a real beginning of a new shopping center. The 8th District city councilman has been assuring Crenshaw residents for years that this day would come. But you could forgive residents if they were skeptical.

The 20-acre property has been eyesore for decades. Its sorry odyssey dates back to 1984 when Mayor Tom Bradley called for redevelopment of what was then known as Santa Barbara Plaza.

The development stalled right from the start and ran into a brick wall in 2004 when the development group awarded the contract, Chris Hammond and Capital Vision Equities, defaulted on the project. CVE’s bank then went bankrupt and the property was tied up in bankruptcy court.
Since then, Parks and other officials worked to gather funds for the Community Redevelopment Authority of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) to buy the remaining properties.

“If there’s one lesson to take away from the past decade, it’s the importance of attaining site control before undertaking a project of this magnitude,” Parks said. “This project will have high, high job creation and significant commercial retail development.”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) called this step a “little miracle” and she praised residents for their patience in putting up with the vacant and rundown condition of the area. From the ground and the air it looks like a bombed out section of city neighborhood.

Several officials, such as Crenshaw Community Advisory Council Chair Joyce Perkins and Kenneth Fearn, Chair of the CRA/LA Board of Commissioners, spoke about shopping at Santa Barbara Plaza when it was a thriving and vibrant neighborhood hub. Sitting next to the Crenshaw Maill with its soon-to-be-renovated food court and the newly refurbished Rave Motion Pictures theatres, it’s in a prime location to again become a gathering spot.

But what happens from here is still a question mark. Parks said that he hopes within the next two months to have some idea of what the project will look like. In the meantime, senior citizen housing at the Buckingham Place Senior Apartments is due to be finished and occupied by February, according to Parks. That project was taken over by Meta Housing from developer Hammond.

Last year LeimertParkBeat.com and Intersections South LA teamed up last year to produce a comprehensive story on the Marlton Square project. See LeimertParkBeat.com for more background on the series of stories we produced and see the stories below.

Watch video of the demolition by Walter Melton of LeimertParkBeat.

Ken Beavers, community resident, gives his reaction to the project.