South LA developments struggle to get off the ground

8629 South Vermont Avenue and former City Council member Bernard Parks
8629 South Vermont Avenue and former City Council member Bernard Parks

Despite multiple promises of retail revitalization in recent years, South L.A. remains in urban decay — destitute of shopping options and even grocery stores.

The lot on the corner of Vermont and Manchester Avenues, for instance, is supposed to be the site of a $100 million entertainment and retail district. The owner Eli Sasson and former City Council member Bernard Parks broke ground last year, promising a world-class destination that would host retailers like Nike and create hundreds of job. But since then, no substantial progress has been made .

“Everybody got excited,” Vermont Knolls resident Dana Gilbert told the L.A. Times. Now, “everybody is losing faith again. It’s like being in a dream, where you want it to come true but knowing it won’t.”

Permits for seven retail, restaurant and supermarket spaces have been submitted to the L.A. Department of Building and Safety, according to Sasson, and now they await for review.

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But the Manchester Avenue project isn’t the only South L.A. development that has been deferred. In 2013, a two-story retail center with a Target, Marshalls and Ross was planned for District Square on Crenshaw Boulevard and Rodeo Road, but the anchor tenant has since pulled out, forcing the developers to modify plans.

All the while, announcements of development are a-plenty. Last year, Kaiser Permanente was the latest firm to announce plans for a major project — a $90 million building on a 8.7-acre site.

In South L.A., there are “10 times more groundbreakings than ribbon cuttings,” Parks told the Times.

One reason for unfulfilled developments is the business risk involved with properties in low-income communities, according to Brenda Shockley, president of a community development nonprofit called Community Build.

Another factor may be the recent lack of governmental support. Five years ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown, alongside the state Legislature, dissolved hundreds of public agencies devoted to kindling economic development and construction to bleak neighborhoods by providing subsidies. [LAT]Cathaleen Chen