Shaul Kuba of CIM Group remaking West Adams

Developer says he’s “merchandising” inner-city neighborhood, others say see hipster bait for gentrification

Los Angeles /
May.May 03, 2022 03:42 PM
CIM Group's Shaul Kuba (Getty, START Los Angeles)
CIM Group’s Shaul Kuba (Getty, START Los Angeles)

A Mid-Wilshire real estate firm is rebuilding the inner city neighborhood of West Adams – but not to everyone’s approval.

Shaul Kuba, a co-founder of CIM Group, is remaking the scrappy Los Angeles neighborhood to his vision, Bloomberg reported. But while he says he’s “merchandising” West Adams after decades of decay, others see it as neighborhood flipping – or gentrification.

CIM is now developing 40 properties in West Adams – at once. That includes construction of 15 new buildings, two to six stories high, with glass storefronts at street level and as many as 170 apartments above. Another CIM mixed-use project calls for 74 units.

Other CIM projects on West Adams are hipster bait, according to Bloomberg—industrial spaces reconfigured to lure affluent tech and entertainment professionals to a neighborhood once occupied by auto mechanics, upholsterers, and pipefitters.

West Adams now has its own Szechuan noodle joint, a vinyl record shop, and a $200-a-night boutique hotel. White millennials walk their labradoodles at night along stretches of streetscape where shootings were once routine.

CIM Group is testing the notion that a single developer can turn around a chronically underfunded inner-city neighborhood – block by block, in the tight, 10-year time frame of a real estate investment fund.

Some critics charge that the West Adams redevelopment is displacing many of the Black and Latino families and entrepreneurs who gave the boulevard the distinctive character. And, while CIM’s acquisitions have made some longtime residents rich, others resisting Kuba’s vision, have paid a price.

“This is a community that doesn’t want to be erased, or lost, in this other vision of LA,” says Miguel Santana, a West Adams resident who served as LA’s chief administrative officer from 2009 to 2017 and now heads the Weingart Foundation, a philanthropy focused on social justice.

CIM owns several storefront properties in the area, including a duplex that Kuba renovated into a pasta restaurant called Cento.

Wallace Rowles Jr., a 74-year-old disabled veteran, used to live on the second floor. CIM paid him $9,000 to move. “They said if I didn’t take it, they’d evict me,” he says. “That money was gone in no time.”

Rowles now splits his weeks sleeping in his car and at a single-room-occupancy hotel.

Kuba started buying properties in West Adams in 2007, not with a specific strategy in mind, he says, but with a feeling that prices were cheap, the location dead-center in LA, and the “bones” good.

For Kuba, West Adams is a place he admires but is actively remaking for a higher-paying clientele.

“The reuse of some of these buildings makes it very romantic and sexy,” he says. “People just want to be part of it.”

But some Black and Brown residents, who claim to have been bullied by what they say are CIM strongarm tactics and city nuisance abatement lawsuits to seize their properties, are pushing back.

In 2017, Kuba invited Abdul Jamal Sheriff, who owns Holiday Liquor Market, to a meeting at CIM’s Wilshire Boulevard offices. He offered Sheriff $2.6 million for his store and an adjoining duplex. But Sheriff said he wasn’t ready to sell.

“That’s when everything blew up,” he says.

Kuba exploded and called him “a piece of s–t” and said CIM was just trying to help him because “nobody” wanted him on West Adams anymore, Sheriff testified in a 2019 court deposition.

“I remember looking around Shaul’s conference room thinking I have no chance, I’m a Black guy with three White folks. No one will stand up for me,” Sheriff says. “I told myself, you came here with dignity, you need to walk out of here with dignity.”

[Bloomberg] – Dana Bartholomew





    Related Articles

    arrow_forward_ios
    Former Los Angeles mayoral candidate Ramit Varma iStock, votevarma.com)
    Ramit Varma exits mayoral race, endorses Caruso
    Ramit Varma exits mayoral race, endorses Caruso
    CIM Group’s co-founder Shaul Kuba and Zurich Insurance’s CEO of North America Kristof Terryn with the property at 8820 South Sepulveda (Zurich, Google Maps)
    CIM Groups sells apartments near LAX to Swiss investor
    CIM Groups sells apartments near LAX to Swiss investor
    Vella's Zach Vella and SWRCC's Dan Langford with 1010 Sandhill Avenue (Vella Group, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, LoopNet)
    Carpenters union buys Carson industrial from Zach Vella
    Carpenters union buys Carson industrial from Zach Vella
    TCW's David Lippman with and the City National Plaza at 515 S. Flower Street (David Lippman, City National Plaza)
    TCW inks largest pandemic-era office lease in DTLA
    TCW inks largest pandemic-era office lease in DTLA
    eBay's Jamie Iannone with 455 North Fairfax Avenue (eBay, Google Maps)
    eBay goes brick and mortar on popup for sneakerheads
    eBay goes brick and mortar on popup for sneakerheads
    Jeff Blau with 1755 Argyle St (LinkedIn, Commercial Observer)
    Related Companies to sell Argyle House in Hollywood
    Related Companies to sell Argyle House in Hollywood
    Frank Gehry and the Ocean Avenue Project (Getty, Ocean Avenue Project, iStock)
    Frank Gehry’s long-awaited Santa Monica project takes big step forward
    Frank Gehry’s long-awaited Santa Monica project takes big step forward
    Duke Realty's James Connor and 14724 Proctor Avenue in City of Industry (Google Maps, Duke Realty)
    Duke Realty gets another 230K sf in City of Industry
    Duke Realty gets another 230K sf in City of Industry
    arrow_forward_ios

    The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

    Loading...