Developer CIM Group backed out of plans to buy the iconic Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping center following pressure from Black community leaders.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Developer CIM Group backed out of plans to buy the iconic Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping center following pressure from Black community leaders who argued the purchase represented gentrification and was a threat to South Los Angeles and its economic interests.
"CIM has concluded that the community, the mall and CIM are best served by us stepping aside,'' CIM Group posted on social media late Sunday. "We wish the community great success in achieving all of its goals for the mall.''
The Los Angeles-based company had been in escrow to buy the site, which has been for sale since 2018. CIM owns billions of dollars of real estate throughout the United States, including the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and has received tens of millions of dollars in government loans and tax subsidies for its massive real estate deals.
But a group of housing justice advocates, community groups and civic leaders opposed the purchase, arguing the company would chase out minority-owned businesses. The coalition also cited allegations that CIM had strong ties to President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
CIM officials denied having any affiliation to the president.
"CIM helps communities achieve their goals and supports minority-owned businesses,'' the company stated on Instagram. "CIM has no business with, nor is it 'backed' by Trump or Kushner. CIM never intended to demolish the historical mall.''
CIM's plan would have scrapped the previously announced redevelopment that was planned by the current owner, Capri Capital Advisors LLC, one of the nation's largest minority-owned real estate companies. Capri's plan, endorsed by local elected officials and community leaders, called for building 1,000 mixed-income housing units and a 400-room hotel on underdeveloped portions of the property.
Crenshaw Subway Coalition Executive Director Damien Goodmon called CIM's decision not to purchase the property a win in what's been an "epic fight.'' He said, "This is a tremendous Black victory and a testament to the power of our community.''
Another community leader who spoke out against the purchase was Pastor William D. Smart Jr., CEO and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California. He called CIM's plans a "hostile takeover of the most iconic African-American retail space west of the Mississippi River.''
When CIM announced its purchase plans in April, co-founder Shaul Kuba said the company believed it to be a "pivotal location in a well-established Los Angeles community, centrally located.'' He said he saw opportunity within the space, where two large anchors, Sears and Walmart, closed their doors prior to COVID-19's shuttering the entire mall. At the time, Kuba called the company's plans an a fresh perspective ... viewed through the lens of the current climate and the acceleration of the already declining retail environment.''
CIM had no plans to build residential units.
Now that CIM is out of the deal, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition is continuing its effort to find alternative ways to develop the mall, garnering support from more than 150 community organizations and leaders, as well as 10,000 signatures, who would like to see the community buy the mall and surrounding properties, Goodmon said. That alternative plan and process has been dubbed Downtown Crenshaw.
A virtual community meeting to discuss next steps for the mall was set to take place at 6:30 p.m. Monday on the Downtown Crenshaw Facebook page.
Black Lives Matter-LA, Crenshaw Subway Coalition and Downtown Crenshaw also are leading a Juneteenth Caravan/March on the mall at 2 p.m. Friday.
The mall is located at Crenshaw and West Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards.
City News Service contributed to this report.