CIM Group backs out of mall buy after community backlash

Company nixes $100M plus-purchase of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall

Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza mall and CIM co-founder Avi Shemesh
Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza mall and CIM co-founder Avi Shemesh

CIM Group’s purchase of the 869,000-square-foot Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza mall ended before it started.

The Los Angeles-based private equity real estate firm wrote in an Instagram post Sunday  “CIM has concluded that the community, the Mall, and CIM are best served by us stepping aside.”

The Los Angeles Business Journal first reported the news.

The sale comes six weeks after CIM Group announced they bought the retail complex from Capri Capital Partners.

CIM Group’s planned purchase was for somewhere north of $100 million, and it came 14 years after Capri bought the south L.A. parcel for $35 million.

Immediately following the sale, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition raised concerns that CIM could turn the space into a tech headquarters locale, similar to what Hudson Pacific Properties and Macerich did with Westside Pavillion, which Google leases.

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Under that scenario, the community group warned, CIM could price out the local, predominantly black Baldwin Hills population.

The Crenshaw Subway Coalition also claimed business ties between CIM and White House adviser Jared Kushner. In its instagram post, CIM called such ties a “falsehood.”

It’s unclear if there are any active ties between CIM and the Kushner and Trump families, but they certainly have a history. CIM, founded in 1994 in L.A. by two Israelis and a New Yorker, has worked on at least seven deals with the two clans over the years, including several office projects with Kushners, such as 200 Lafayette Street and 2 Rector Street. The firm had partnered with Kushner Companies on a residential development in Brooklyn (the Kushners sold their stake in 2018) and even provided a lifeline to the Trump Organization at the Trump Soho (CIM later rebranded the hotel and severed ties with the Trump Org.).

The nixed mall sale comes six months after the Crenshaw Subway Coalition also helped kill a planned 577-unit residential project in nearby Arlington Heights.

Like other malls, Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza has been mostly closed since mid-March when coronavirus pandemic shelter-in-place orders were issued, and is currently open on a limited basis. [Los Angeles Business Journal] — Matthew Blake