Historic Sears building in Boyle Heights could become 'life rebuilding center' for homeless

Eric Resendiz Image
Saturday, February 19, 2022
LA's Sears building could become 'life rebuilding center' for homeless
Owner Izek Shomof says he will turn the historic Sears building in Boyle Heights to a 'life rebuilding center' for the homeless.

BOYLE HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The owner of the Sears building in Boyle Heights has a drastic plan for a rebrand.

The historic building dates back to the 1920s, and became a fixture on Olympic Boulevard for the community. It closed for good in 2021, but now, building owner Izek Shomof says he has big plans for the 26-acre campus, turning it into what he calls a life rebuilding center for the homeless.

"What we are offering to do is not anything close to shelter," Shomof Group founder Izek Shomof said. "What we are proposing to do here is bring in people whose life is broken."

Shomof says the center would open in three phases. The goal is to house 5,500 people, bring in nonprofits and include services like a medical clinic, mental health support and job training.

"We feel like it's time to put an end to it and solve the homelessness issue," Shomof said. "The solution that we have and the receipt we have here is to bring them here and rebuild their life."

CleanCity consultant Bill Taormina, who is working with Shomof on the project, says they successfully operate a similar project but much smaller in Orange County.

"The approach is Boyle Heights first. Let's help Boyle Heights in many ways, helping them clean up the homelessness issue, helping their business community be revived and then look county-wide," Taormina said.

The price for the plan marks around $400 million, which Somof says his family would pay for. The plan is to lease the finished complex to the city of L.A. for an estimated $23 million per year. They also propose to get government funding to pay for operating costs, which is estimated to be about $80 million a year.

"I welcome people who want to productively work on solving this humanitarian crisis and house people as quickly as possible. This is a gargantuan problem that requires all hands on deck to solve, so I am open to all solutions that can address the suffering we see with the homeless," L.A. City Councilmember Kevin De León said in a statement.

Many residents across the street from the site have mixed feelings on the project, but generally agree they want people off the streets.

"It's a good decision for these people, no more living in the street," Juan Cueva said. "For me this is a good decision."