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Activists Have 24 Hours to Stop the Sale of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall

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Kisha Smith

Twenty-four hours. That’s officially all the time Pastor William Smart, Downtown Crenshaw co-founder, Damion Goodman and a host of community groups have to stop the sale of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall to the Harridge Development Group in a deal that is set to close on Friday, June 29. If successful, it would be the third time the community has thwarted the sale of what is a beloved cultural landmark.

“We, the community, believe in our own self determinism,” said Pastor William Smart, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Los Angeles. “We want to determine who builds in our community. We have the capacity to develop and operate this development. We say no to the current Baldwin Hills Mall bidder, Schwartzman. If he prevails, that mall, in the heart of the Black community, will be out of our hands.”

“This is a community effort,” Smart continued. “The community does not want this deal. We want the sale stopped”

For the last sixteen months, the mall has been the target of numerous outside white developers seeking to gentrify the Crenshaw community. The latest offer to purchase the mall comes from the Beverly Hills-based Harridge Development Group, led by CEO David Schwartzman, who Goodman maintains has a troubled history, and whose financial backer—a Soviet-born oil tycoon— has ties to Donald Trump and Vladmir Putin.

“This is the third one—and the worst one,” Smart said of the latest development deal. “At a time when most businesses, sports and entertainment entities and governmental agencies are working towards improving diversity, equity and inclusion in their operations, Harridge Development Group appears to be moving in the opposite direction,” said Pastor William Smart, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Los Angeles. “I am appalled by the lack of diversity at the Harridge Development Group and shocked that the bid to purchase the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall had no Black ownership as part of the bid team’s effort.”

In their quest for self-determination, Downtown Crenshaw worked in tandem with the community to raise the funds necessary to make a competitive bid.

“We submitted a fully financed offer and we’ve technically raised over $115 million which we’ve confirmed is higher than what Harridge has offered,” Goodman revealed. 

“The reason they don’t want to give us the opportunity to close is they’re not looking at this as a financial transaction. This is plain old systemic racism. At no point in this have we been treated fairly. Bottom line, it’s a group of white men who don’t want to see a Black group be in charge of the biggest development project in the city of Los Angeles.”

At a press conference held earlier today, activists called on elected officials to oppose the deal.

“We oppose this deal today and will continue to oppose this deal because it is bad for our community,” Smart stated. “It is time for Black people with the knowledge and ability to build in our community and purchase the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall.

Even if the sale were to go through, the group says the fight is far from over. 

Said Goodman, “We do have a Plan B.”


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