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SOUTH-CENTRAL : Vermont Renewal Project Takes Root

August 06, 1995|STEPHEN GREGORY

Residents and merchants hope a new beginning for a 16-block stretch of Vermont Avenue has taken root with a project to plant 124 shade trees along the thoroughfare.

The effort is part of a $250,000 make-over for Vermont between Vernon and Slauson avenues. The goal is to transform the mile-long area into an inviting promenade for shoppers and residents by the end of the year.

Along with the trees, curbs will be repaired, sidewalks will be steam-cleaned, light posts will be painted, colorful banners will be hung, and kiosks and bus shelters will be decorated with art from local schoolchildren.

"We're going to do something with Vermont; you're going to see something happen in this area," said Helen Johnson, a longtime local resident who volunteers on a community advisory board for the project, funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

More than 200 community members turned out July 8 to help in the first round of planting. Thirty-four saplings have taken root along the concrete, brick and stucco commercial strip. Now about eight feet tall, they are expected to grow to about 30 feet over the next decade.

The remaining trees will be planted over the next couple of weeks. The next step will be to paint lampposts blue and install bus shelters and benches along the thoroughfare.

The project is one of eight make-overs under way across the city as part of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative program. The other areas, including Leimert Park and Boyle Heights, have also received $250,000 each for similar improvements. The program is part of a federal plan to improve the transportation infrastructure in run-down commercial areas.

Once a bustling retail strip, Vermont Avenue has fallen into decline over the past several years. The corridor was particularly hard hit during the 1992 riots, losing dozens of buildings and businesses.

Local residents and merchants hope the face-lift will help turn the street around by making the area more attractive and luring more businesses and shoppers.

The trees, they say, represent a solid first step toward that goal.

Said Lisa Mims-Wyrick, co-owner of a Vermont Avenue auto body shop: "It just makes the street look like the people that own the businesses care a little more."

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