Schoolchildren and local politicians broke ground Thursday at the site of the Watts civic center.
The structure, at 103rd Street and Compton Avenue, will house branches of American Savings and the Community Development Bank, the district office of Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr., the Community Redevelopment Agency's Watts office, the city clerk's office and space for businesses.
The civic center building, scheduled to open next spring, is designed to provide "greater access to municipal and financial services here in Watts to make it easier for residents to get zoning information, take out a building permit and apply for a construction loan," Svorinich said.
The lack of public services has been a sore spot in Watts for generations, and was a grievance frequently cited in the wake of the 1965 Watts riots.
The structure, a two-story stucco and wood building, will cost nearly $2.7 million, with the expense split between city departments and private developers. It will be built on land owned by the CRA, officials said.
Developer Thad Williams has been working in conjunction with the Westminster Neighborhood Assn., a community-based social service group, to build the civic center.
He said he is especially excited about having office space for attorneys, accountants and other professionals available in the community.
To mark the occasion, about 100 youngsters from Markham Middle School, located a few blocks from the site, participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.
"This is the crowning ornament of the existing Watts redevelopment project," said CRA spokesman Mark Littman. The project includes the Martin Luther King Jr. Shopping Center, 600 new units of affordable housing, a new post office and a state-of-the-art branch of the Los Angeles Public Library that is scheduled to open June 29.