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South Los Angeles Retail Complex Opens : Commerce: Paradise Market is aimed at promoting entrepreneurship in the area.


Touting it as an oasis of entrepreneurship in a neighborhood that lost much of its commercial base during the riots, civic leaders Tuesday opened a new retail center in South Los Angeles--the first project approved under a post-riot city ordinance designed to accelerate the rebuilding process.

Paradise Market, on South Broadway at 52nd Street, was unveiled at a ceremony designed to promote entrepreneurship in South Los Angeles.

The $1-million project is the brainchild of Richard Riordan, a lawyer and venture capitalist who enlisted the support of Rebuild L.A., the task force charged with revitalizing sections of Los Angeles damaged in the riots.

"Our desire is to empower this community by encouraging local ownership of small- and medium-sized business," Riordan told an opening-day crowd of about 100 that included Rebuild L.A. Chairman Peter V. Ueberroth, local government officials, business owners and activists representing black, Latino and Asian-American organizations. "Paradise Market is a living symbol of this effort. Welcome to Paradise."

Thus far, 15 merchants have answered the call--each agreeing to pay rent of $250 per month for 150-square-foot booths. About half the 32,000 square feet of space at the market has been rented.

Tenants include merchants offering ethnic food, clothing, toys and leather goods. Among the retailers is La Habra-based Food 4 Less supermarkets, which opened a 1,500-square-foot mini-market that offers fresh produce and canned and bottled goods. Rebuild L.A. encouraged Food 4 Less to locate at the site.

Toy maker Mattel Inc. is there but won't be selling Barbie dolls. The El Segundo company's Mattel Foundation has established a "learning center" at Paradise that will offer day care and educational programs for children, youths and adults.

In addition, the Watts Health Foundation, a medical services organization, opened a mobile medical unit at the complex.

Riordan said he selected Broadway and 52nd because 45 businesses within one square mile of the site were destroyed during the riots. A burned-out commercial site--one of many charred properties in the area--is across the street.

The retail center is on land owned by Paradise Baptist Church, which is next to the new business site. Any profit from rental charges will be used to fund business training programs, such as financial planning classes, for Paradise merchants, said James V. Burks, an administrator with the city of Los Angeles who will serve as project manager.

Some of the profit would also be used to repay Riordan, who personally loaned $300,000 to help finance the project. The Riordan Foundation, his philanthropic organization, provided a grant. The Weingart Foundation and 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, a civic group, also made donations.

Paradise Market was the first project to be approved under an ordinance designed to accelerate the city of Los Angeles' construction permit process, a measure approved last May.

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