LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Crenshaw Baldwin Hills Plaza is more than just a mall. For many in the neighborhood, it's become an economic and cultural centerpiece for the community.
"We cannot afford for this mall to be going into the hands of anybody but us," said Rev. William Smart from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said at a demonstration held last week.
The mall has been up for sale and one of the leading groups to buy it is a large development company. Some in the community oppose this.
"This community has a right to be at the table to purchase this small we will reject any outsiders that come into this area," said Pastor K.W. Tulloss from the Baptist Ministers Conference.
More housing and offices are being built in the area, and the new LAX subway line will go through here. A number of businesses have closed in the mall and some worry the sale would lead to gentrification and displace black-owned businesses.
The community group Downtown Crenshaw Rising says it put the highest offer for the property -- $115 million -- but was rejected.
"This mall is the center of Black commerce in Los Angeles. It is the most critical Black commercial asset in Los Angeles and thereby in Black America," said Damien Goodmon from Downtown Crenshaw Rising.
Barbara Walton has been living in the area for 60 years. She says she's worried about the future of her community.
"It's not going to be something that's going to help our neighborhood. The money is going out of our neighborhood," she said.
The current owner DWS Group shared the following statement with Eyewitness News:
"We welcomed all potential buyers, including community groups, to participate in the bidding process. The winning bidder was selected based upon a number of factors which include both purchase price and proof of adequate financing, as well as development expertise.
The potential buyer Harridge Development Group released the following statement:
"Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation out there and due to current legal constraints, we cannot comment at this time."
Mayor Eric Garcetti says he understands how important this mall is to the community, saying: "These are private transactions in the private marketplace so the city doesn't own it."
Garcetti stressed however, "Regardless who gets it they better be looking at affordable housing, not gentrifying the community, adding community benefit, and providing local jobs as well as taking advantage of the new Crenshaw LAX line that is there."