The Community Redevelopment Agency announced big plans last week for redeveloping Washington Boulevard.
And if they've got a chance of doing more than gathering dust like many would-be redevelopment schemes, experts say it will be thanks to the corridor's light rail system.
The CRA and area Councilwoman Jan Perry envision a vibrant 22-block district filled with mixed-use projects that will build on the residential, retail and entertainment developments already under way just north of it near Staples Center.
But while the decaying commercial and industrial stretch of Washington Boulevard is only walking distance from the rapidly gentrifying South Park neighborhood, it is set off by more than just a psychological barrier; there is also the matter of the Santa Monica (10) Freeway.
However, a key part of the plan includes integrating any new development into Metropolitan Transportation Authority transit stops two existing Blue Line stations in the zone and an Expo Line stop planned for nearby.
"I think the area is a very viable area with the (mass transit) linkage to downtown," said Mark Moniz, a senior associate in the urban redevelopment group with CB Richard Ellis Group Inc.'s downtown Los Angeles office.
The existing Blue Line light rail stations along Washington Boulevard are at Grand Avenue and San Pedro Street. The planned Expo Line light rail stop at Flower Street will be just two blocks south of the zone.
The thinking is by building up Washington Boulevard, local developers will be able to attract people from all over South Los Angeles and downtown, who will use the light rail lines to get to the 22-block zone for shopping trips and other excursions. The CRA has set a March 16 deadline for development proposals.
Consultant Larry Kosmont said a political backlash and recent restrictions on the use of eminent domain have made it difficult for new, large redevelopment projects to work. But he said Washington Boulevard is one area that may benefit from a public-private development effort.
"To me the transit makes it worthwhile, because it makes sense to densify in this area. If there wasn't this transit investment I would say pass on it," said Kosmont, president of Kosmont Cos., an Encino-based real estate and economic development firm.
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