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A Long Road of Hope and Despair : Poverty and a Bit of Promise Line King Boulevard

January 16, 1989|CHARISSE JONES | Times Staff Writer

But, added Taylor, the street has a long way to go before it is as great as the man it is named for. "We have people walking down this street hungry, begging for food . . . (and) we had to put up a fence and an alarm system in the church because of break-ins," she said.

Signs of prosperity become more plentiful farther west on the boulevard. By Wilton Place, the small businesses and run-down apartment buildings have been left behind, and well-kept ranch-style homes stretch out in the distance.

But a few blocks west, on the other side of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, it isn't so lovely. The tree-shaded streets and brand-new Woodlake mini-mall at the corner of Coliseum Street and King Boulevard belie the reputation of a neighborhood now called Baldwin Village, but until recently known as "The Jungle."

But the mall, some say, could change everything. It could make the entire boulevard prosper, make the entire community unite.

"I'm proud of the boulevard now, since the mall is here," said Johnny Narcisse, 50, who lives three blocks away from the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw shopping complex. Before it was refurbished, Narcisse said, "I was thinking of moving. But now I'm going to stay and build on to my house."

King would be proud, he said. "The people around the mall are beginning to be proud of their community now," said Narcisse, eating a corn dog inside the shopping center. "I think since we got this mall now, we should improve around it," said Narcisse. "I hope blacks will work together and try to help each other do better."

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