By Alexis Gebhardt
(BALDWIN HILLS/CRENSHAW, Calif.) A coalition of 300 local organizations held a news conference on May 31, demanding Deutsche Bank/DWS sell them historic Crenshaw mall .
Downtown Crenshaw Rising is a community-led non-profit organization that is seeking to collectively purchase the 40-acre mall Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
Their goal is to make it a "community-centered development," to "beat outside gentrifiers" and create a "model of redevelopment that uplifts communities like Crenshaw without uprooting long-time residents and merchants," said DCR board member Damien Goodman in a press release.
Civil rights leaders in the group accuse Deutsche Bank/DWS of engaging in "overt racism" by awarding its most recent contract for purchasing to Harridge Development and not to the Black-led collective.
DWS said in a statement to CBS that it has conducted "a thorough and fair bidding process and have engaged diligently and constructively with community leaders about the purchase of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza."
Multiple real estate companies have attempted to purchase the property since April 2020, including a $110 million bid from two New York companies. The deals fell through, however, due to mounting pressure from numerous demonstrations and community organizations. Activists protested last Monday outside of Harridge Development CEO David Schwartzman's Beverly Hills house in an attempt to stop this latest deal.
In March, DCR submitted a second bid of $34 million in addition to the balance of the purchase price for the mall, claiming that they've offered the current largest bid for the property.
The mall over the last several years has been on a steady financial decline, losing anchor tenants like Walmart and Sears in 2016 and 2018 respectively. The pandemic only worsened the decline.
Capri Capital Advisors, who did not answer when asked to provide a statement, acquired the property in 2006 for $136 million and spent $40 million in renovations. Over time, the mall became a host to small, Black-owned businesses. Some of those businesses struggled to stay open due to the pandemic. DCR, in its plan to buy the mall, hopes to stabilize the mom and pop merchants of color.
“We just hoped the sellers of the mall would take our money, get out of the way of Black self-determination and maybe even see this as an opportunity to show that there is a better way." said Goodmon.