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Community News: Southwest

WEST ADAMS : Housing-Market Project Under Way

May 22, 1994|ERIN J. AUBRY

The last time the southwest corner of Adams Boulevard and Western Avenue had anything on it--about 10 years ago--Bill Hardy frequented a liquor store there that was owned by a man who made a killer roast beef sandwich.

The owner moved his business to Gardena, and Hardy has been waiting ever since for something besides weeds and rusted chain-link fence on the lot that once boasted a vibrant commercial strip. Their wait may soon be over.

After years of negotiations, plans to build a mixed-use commercial and residential development were announced last week at a groundbreaking ceremony in the lot.

"(The development) has been a long time coming," said Hardy, a West Adams resident and caterer. "Western Avenue could come back up and thrive like it used to."

Adams West Town Center, a $7-million village-like project, will provide 52 housing units for senior citizens, plus an 11,000-square-foot supermarket. The project will be built by the Bedford Group, a private developer, and Food 4 Less Supermarkets. Construction should be completed by the end of 1995.

Cooperating entities include the California Community Reinvestment Corp., the Century Freeway Housing Program, the Community Redevelopment Agency and Wells Fargo Bank. Officials at the ceremony said it is precisely the mix of public and private funds that makes the development exemplary, but also made it very difficult to pull together.

"It was like giving birth to an elephant--a very long and arduous process," said Charles Quarles, president of the Bedford Group. "It's been in the womb a very long time."

Councilman Nate Holden said simply getting all the groups to sit down and talk to each other was an accomplishment. "We've been trying to get this corner going a long time, since (former City Councilman) Bob Farell's time," he said. "It was bounced from his district to mine. It's about time the community gets what it deserves."

Redevelopment agency spokesman Ed Burkovitz said that despite the project's slow evolution, it is a timely one that fulfills several pressing community needs.

"It brings together housing, a new commercial facility, and with it, new jobs in the neighborhood," he said. "It also sends the message to other private sector businesses that they should be investing in communities like these."

The site was once a bastion of black-owned businesses that included the famed jazz club the Rubiyat Room, but over the years was ravaged by fire and decay. Ira Massey, a Holden aide, said bureaucratic bickering dating Farell's time slowed the process of rebuilding to a snail's pace.

But now, he said, the site has a chance of recapturing its former glory. "It should be a showplace again, a symbol, like the Golden State Mutual Life across the street," he said.

Jackie Calloway, a 40-year West Adams resident and community activist, said she will be happy to be rid of an eyesore. "When people see vacant lots like this, the devastation, it's hard to convince them that this is a great area."

Calloway, a resident of West 25th Street, said: "Socially and economically, this development is wonderful. It will help restore the dignity of West Adams."

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