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Black community group raises $28 million to buy L.A. mall

Al Urbanski
Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall
Downtown Crenshaw Rising claims Deutsche Bank has ignored its bids to buy Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall in L.A.

Two bids made in the past year for the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall in the Crenshaw neighborhood in Los Angeles were blocked by a Black community group, which this week released a statement announcing the raising of more than $28 million to purchase the property.

Worried that local businesses in the majority Black community would be forced out of the mall by national chains under new ownership, a group called Downtown Crenshaw Rising helped quash an offer submitted by LIVWRK and DFH partners in December. In June of 2020, the group opposed a $130 million offer for Baldwin Hills from CIM Group because of its dealings with Kushner Real Estate Group, which is controlled by the family of Jaren Kushner, the son-in-law of Donald Trump.

The press release stated that its revamped effort “shattered all fundraising records” in raising $28 million from philanthropists and an additional $6 million in letters of intent from investors to make a bid for the mall.

DCR will hold a press conference on March 24 to demand that Crenshaw Mall’s owners Deutsche Bank/DWS accept the organization’s bid for the property, saying that the mall's sellers have shunned bids made by the community group.

"We offered a higher bid and more generous terms than anyone," said DCR Board Chair Niki Okuk. "Yet Deutsche Bank's Tim Ellsworth won't even respond to Black people."

According to DCR, its current funding for the purchase came from more than 150 donors that include the Pritzker family, the Disney family, the Kataly Foundation, Resource Generation LA, and local Black celebrities.

"Through Downtown Crenshaw we are showing that it is possible for Black people to collectively control Black spaces, beat outside gentrifiers, and create a new just model of redevelopment that uplifts communities like Crenshaw without uprooting long-time residents and merchants," said DCR board member Damien Goodmon.

Goodman is a descendant of Louis M. Blodgett, an African-American from Savannah who arrived in Los Angeles in 1904 and founded the Blodgett Bros. Contracting Firm. Blodgett became a prominent landholder and financial figure in L.A. as the president of Liberty Savings and Loan. He was also active as a member of the NAACP and the Urban League.

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