Golden Boy Partners, Oscar de la Hoya's development company, has broken ground on what the boxing star and his business partners hope will be the first of his real estate projects designed to provide affordable housing in Latino communities.

Tierra del Rey will feature 107 town homes on five acres at Firestone Boulevard and Calden Avenue in South Gate. Bulldozers have cleared the site and the city has approved a tract map for the project, which is awaiting a final plan check from South Gate officials before grading begins.

The project represents a comeback for de la Hoya's real estate venture, which suffered a setback when it tried to buy a Sears store and warehouse site in Boyle Heights last year. Golden Boy planned a mixed-use project on that site and agreed to pay $70 million for the property. But the company didn't get financing and the project fell apart. Later efforts to revive the deal failed.

Unlike the Sears project, which had a retail component, the South Gate venture is purely residential. Units range from 1,200 to 1,600 square feet and will sell for around $350,000.

Pablo Leon, managing partner of the Tierra del Rey project, said the selection of South Gate a predominantly Latino city illustrates de la Hoya's commitment.

"The overriding concern emanating from Oscar is that he wants to get involved in projects that other developers wouldn't because they don't understand the neighborhood," Leon said.

Miguel Garcia, owner of Maximum Gain Realty in Montebello, said with the current state of the Latino real estate market, few condos would sell at the $350,000 asking price.

"Right now, the market is divided," Garcia said. "It's the bank-owned home market that's moving. The regular market, where a seller finds a buyer, is still depressed."

He said the market could be healthy in another three years, but that's not soon enough for the Tierra del Rey project, opening by 2009 or early 2010.

Golden Boy has other projects in the pipeline, too, with projects in Compton, Huntington Park, Long Beach and Montebello.

Tierra del Rey features stucco walls and earth tones, typical of Southern California communities. The interiors were designed to specifically appeal to Latino buyers.

Dan Withee, partner in the architectural firm Withee Malcolm in Torrance, said he made large kitchens and dining areas because "food is a more important part of their culture than in Caucasian culture."

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