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MID-CITY : Bus Tour Sets Sights on the Future

March 06, 1994|JAKE DOHERTY

When dozens of Mid-City residents and business owners piled onto a bus recently, they embarked on an unusual sightseeing tour: not only to see what their neighborhoods look like, but also to imagine what they could become.

The Community Redevelopment Agency sponsored the tour for more than 25 members of seven advisory committees, which were organized last year by the agency and City Councilman Nate Holden's office.

The committees will offer recommendations for revitalizing Mid-City businesses with the agency's support. Each committee is focusing on strategies for separate commercial corridors--portions of Pico, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Venice and Crenshaw boulevards and the Midtown Shopping Center. The panels can recommend one of several courses: specific but limited public-improvement projects, a comprehensive agency-led redevelopment project backed by a commitment of public funds, or no agency involvement at all.

"We need citizen participation in this decision," said Edward O. Saulet, a CRA project manager. "This is the community's chance to tell us what it needs."

As they toured the study areas, committee members expressed their concerns. "Auto-body shops have taken over the area and there's little in common as far as signage goes," Mid-City resident Jerry Mendelson said as the bus headed west on Pico Boulevard. "It puts people off.

"But there are lots of buildings with unique historical features and a lot of possibilities," he added.

Mendelson suggested efforts be made to attract restaurants, antique shops or a movie theater.

For many businesses along Adams Boulevard, damage wrought by the Jan. 17 earthquake poses immediate problems of survival. "This area was hit as bad as the Valley," said real estate agent Bruce Campbell. "I counted more than 22 buildings around Adams that had been red-tagged (as unsafe)."

Tommy Tucker, a businessman in the area for more than 50 years, decried the proliferation of graffiti and crime along Washington Boulevard, a sentiment shared by committee members from other areas. "If you're going to have people invest, you need more protection and neighborhood cleanups," he said.

Attracting corporate tenants and high-caliber stores is the key to revitalizing Crenshaw Boulevard and other commercial corridors, said real estate agent John T. Graves. "We've got to get away from the strip-mall stores. Liquor stores, chicken restaurants and swap meets just don't do it."

Roger Curns, general manager of the Midtown Bowling Center, said revitalization starts with jobs: "No matter what we build, we leave ourselves open to having it torn down again if we don't get businesses involved with young people" through job-training programs.

Graves said the Mid-City area deserves a redevelopment project like the one in Little Tokyo. "Compared with Little Tokyo, we don't have anything. We need to ask for the big bucks. With redevelopment you can go for broke."

But committee member Frances Andrews said redevelopment is not a panacea. "It's not a matter of going to the agency and saying, 'What can you do for us?' We need to say, 'What can we do for ourselves?' "

The agency will sponsor a community forum to discuss Mid-City revitalization options at 7 p.m. March 23 at the Broadway Federal Savings & Loan, 4835 Venice Blvd.

Information: (213) 766-9830.

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