The leaders of Downtown Crenshaw are seeking to purchase the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and are fighting to stop a group with possible ties to Donald Trump and Jared Kushner from buying it.
By Jason Lewis
The Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza has been on the market since 2019, and there is currently a fight from a Black community-based group, who is looking to purchase the mall, to stop the sale of the mall to a developer who may have ties to President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Downtown Crenshaw, co-founded by Crenshaw Subway Coalition founder Damien Goodmon, has already fought off the mall being sold to CIM, another developer with ties to Trump and Kushner. After pressure from Downtown Crenshaw and other community leaders and groups, CIM backed out of the sale, which was reportedly for over $100 million, in April of this year.
After the CIM Group backed out, Downtown Crenshaw put together a plan and a team that included the global award-winning architecture firms the Smith Group, which designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., and MASS Design Group, which uses architecture to empower communities; local architect Cory Henry; real estate power house Jones Lang LaSalle; and Phil Hart, whose projects include West Angeles Cathedral.
Capri Capital Advisors has owned the mall since 2006. According to Goodmon, Deutsche Bank subsidiary DWS is managing the sale of the mall and is selecting which development team’s bid will be accepted. There are many reports that link Trump to Deutsche Bank.
Downtown Crenshaw put together a team that has developed major real estate projects so that the sellers would not say that they lacked experience or know how to take on a project of this nature. Their plan was based on community ownership where community members could purchase shares and own a piece of the project. They want to look for retailers and business owners who are from the community that the mall serves so that the money is recycled throughout the immediate neighborhood, opposed to the money quickly leaving the community.
Their plan included affordable housing, satellite campuses for job training, a healthcare clinic, child care, Black art spaces, and conference spaces.
Unfortunately, Downtown Crenshaw’s bid was denied in favor of a bid by LIVWRK, led by Asher Abehsera, who has worked on major real estate projects with Kushner.
“At every single step to buy the mall, they’ve thwarted us,” Goodmon said. “They denied our bid, as a Black collective, pushing forward a Black community focused vision, for this Black and Brown Crenshaw community. But they didn’t just deny our bid. They denied the bids of multiple Black development teams; multiple teams that had far more experience, far more community support, far more community understanding (than LIVWRK).”
The mall is in an opportunity zone, which were created by Trump. The President has listed this as one of the ways that he has helped Black communities, but it is highly questionable if the people living within opportunity zones have benefited. Opportunity zones have been called gentrification zones because wealthy developers have benefited from them while displacing people of color. The mall is a highly coveted property because it’s in an opportunity zone.
“The mall has been described by many developers as the most golden opportunity to chase in all of the opportunity zones across America,” Goodmon said. “This is a tax benefit that is only made available to the uber wealthy who invest in these traditionally underserved communities. So we have known that Jared Kushner and Donald Trump have been circling this project for quite some time. And we suspect that’s why both CIM Group and now LIVWRK have coveted this site.”
Goodmon has linked LIVWRK to CIM Group, implying that the new bid is coming from the same people.
“It appears that what has happened is that CIM simply went into locker room at halftime, changed their jerseys, and came back out as LIVWRK,” he said.
The CIM Group has been linked to the gentrification issues in Black communities of Los Angels.
“The CIM Group has been engaged in a takeover of the West Adams community by acquiring over 45 properties and redeveloping them,” Goodmon said. “They’ve put pressure on mom and pop businesses that are mostly Black and Brown and remaking them for a more affluent crowd. They are bringing in tenants that cater to the gentry that’s coming into our community.”
LIVWRK, in partnership with Kushner, has also been accused of similar tactics.
“We do know that this is a team that focuses on re-tenanting,” Goodmon said. “We do know that their project in Brooklyn, specifically Austin Nichols House, intentionally made life difficult for lower paying tenants so that they can push them out and replace them with higher paying tenants.”
This issue may be bigger than just a mall.
“We also know that CIM Group and Jared Kushner, they don’t just buy a mall, or buy an asset,” Goodmon said. “No, they come in and take over entire communities like we’ve seen them do in West Adams. It wasn’t about one big project, it was about multiple projects; to run a program of displacement and gentrification.”
Downtown Crenshaw is emphasizing community ownership, opposed to outside developers such as CIM and LIVWRK who are looking for community buy-in. Community buy-in does not include ownership.
“We’re moving from participation to ownership,” said Baba Akili, a member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and Downtown Crenshaw. “An outside group that has no history, no understanding, or no relationships here, is the worst thing that you can do. Particularly in comparison to the fact that you have Black people making bids.
“This is the best example of a community centered development, the best example of community ownership, and the best example of community wealth building. Downtown Crenshaw is the complete reverse what CIM/LIVWRK wants to do.”
While the members of Downtown Crenshaw have linked Trump, Kushner, CIM, and LIVWRK together, Abehsera said that he has not had any business deals with Trump; that he has not had any business deals with Kushner in a few years; and that while he is involved in projects with CIM, he is not working with CIM on the purchase of the mall.
Downtown Crenshaw holds weekly Zoom meetings that are open to the public. Past meetings can be viewed on their Facebook page. For more information on Downtown Crenshaw and to support their efforts, visit www.downtowncrenshaw.com.