In March of 2014, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) learned that it would not receive a $30-million Choice Neighborhoods federal grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The decision represented a setback in the revitalization of the Jordan Downs housing project. It was also the cause of concern among some residents who, in the past, have experienced disillusionment when proposals to transform Jordan Downs have fallen apart. However, there is hope from the developers that funding for the project will come from other sources.
Jordan Downs is a 714-unit public housing project located in Watts, California. It was named after long-time residents of the area, David Starr Jordan and Samuel Elliot Downs. The premises consist of 103 buildings that range in size from one to five bedrooms. Owned and managed by HACLA, the apartment complex was originally built as semi-permanent housing for war workers during World War II. However, in the early 1950s, HACLA converted the dwellings into public housing.
Plans to revitalize Jordan Downs began in the fall of 2008 when HACLA and the City of Los Angeles issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) and Request for Qualifications (RFQ) package for the redevelopment of the apartment complex. City officials also made it clear that they sought to create a “vibrant urban village that is sustainable, mixed-used, mixed-income community that includes green development and encompasses all the amenities that enable communities to ‘sustain’ long term.” That same year, HACLA acquired a nearby 21-acre piece of land for $31 million. The purchase serves as an indicator of their intent to expand upon the existing housing project.
It is envisioned that this $700 million multi-phase redevelopment project will replace the existing 714 public housing apartments and add up to 1,400 affordable and market-rate homes. Furthermore, the urban village will include neighborhood-serving retail, community centers, and parks. The plan also proposes the development of a comprehensive Human Capital Plan to provide family support, job training, and community programs for residents to move forward toward self-sufficiency. Collaborating in this vision is a private development team hired by city officials, the for-profit Michaels Organization and the non-profit Bridge Housing. The retail component of the proposed project will be undertaken by Primestor Development Inc, a Los Angeles company known for working in underserved areas.
Today, there are still plans to move forward with the proposed project. However, HACLA and its team will have to address some concerns that have been conveyed by local residents, advocacy groups, and other interested stakeholders. Among these are:
- Secure funding that will enable the revitalization of Jordan Downs housing project;
- Confirm that there is no contamination of the soil in the proposed site or sites adjacent to the proposed project given the history of heavy industrialization in the area;
- Ensure that existing residents are not displaced as a result of this redevelopment project;
- Implement the proposed Human Capital Plan;
- Attract investment into the community;
- Continue to decrease the crime rates in the Jordan Downs.
What redevelopment initiative has served as a catalyst for revitalizing your community into an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable neighborhood? How have local officials in your community addressed financing challenges in publicly funded projects? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Images by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes. Data linked to sources.