Developers Chosen to Replace Watts’ Jordan Downs

Jessica Garrison, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2012

Los Angeles’ housing authority board chose developers Thursday for a $1-billion effort to redevelop the Jordan Downs housing project in Watts, a crucial step toward revitalizing one of the city’s poorest and most violence-plagued neighborhoods.

The plan calls for knocking down the 700-unit project whose name has become synonymous with urban blight and replacing it with a larger “urban village” of up to 1,800 new homes, stores and a park.

More than a third of the units would be reserved for families now living in the dilapidated two-story buildings, many of whom pay little rent and have lived in public housing for generations. But officials also envision selling several hundred units at market rate, and hope to make the new community inviting to retailers and more affluent residents.

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Significant questions remain about how the project will be financed.

The housing authority has about $15 million in federal housing replacement funds and has identified some other funding sources, but officials said many details must still be worked out.

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Jordan Downs is among the city’s oldest housing projects. It was built as a temporary shelter for factory workers during World War II and became public housing for the poor in the 1950s.

In later years, the Grape Street Crips claimed the project as their turf. Police and residents now say crime is down and conditions are much better than a few years ago, but many people living there have lost someone they know to violence. On a recent day, a makeshift shrine, with candles and liquor bottles, sat not far from the project’s community center.

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There are about 2,400 people living in Jordan Downs. Under the plan, all of those complying with the terms of their leases will be eligible to move into the new development. In recent months, officials have been offering an extensive array of social services at the project, including groups for mothers and fathers.

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