Shauna Robinson signed a 10-year lease at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza for her Total Woman Gym & Spa franchise.

Shauna Robinson signed a 10-year lease at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza for her Total Woman Gym & Spa franchise. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

The revitalization of the Crenshaw district of South Los Angeles has been talked about for decades, but a new light-rail system, surging real estate prices, a new hospital and the $700 million redevelopment of a local mall makes it appear to some observers that the current push to transform the community is different.

Shauna Robinson, the owner of a Total Woman Gym & Spa franchise located inside the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall, is one of the believers. Robinson rose through the ranks as a Total Woman Gym sales representative, decided to become a franchiser for the company, signed a 10-year lease at the mall and opened her own business.

The entrepreneurial leap came with some extra risk – malls aren’t the economic drivers they once were, after all. Case in point: Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza’s largest tenant, Walmart Inc., vacated the mall in 2016 and the space remains vacant.

Yet there is a growing belief in the South L.A. community that residents shouldn’t have to drive as far away as The Grove in Mid-Wilshire to shop, Robinson said. Once-overlooked areas of Los Angeles County – from Culver City to Boyle Heights – are turning into go-to destinations, and there’s a sense that Crenshaw could be next.

“Why not us?” Robinson asked.

It’s a timely question – the Los Angeles City Council last month approved the plan of Chicago-based Capri Capital Partners to redevelop the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall.

The project aims to add more than 2 million square feet to the 43-acre site, including an eight-story, 400-room hotel, 330,000 square feet of new shops and restaurants, a retail village, a 10-story, 148,000-square-foot office tower and other amenities.

The retail project isn’t alone in glimpsing a different future in the Crenshaw district.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to open next year its Crenshaw/LAX Line, which will run 8.5 miles and connect the Expo and Green lines. It’s a project that has been decades in the making.

Destination Crenshaw, a 1.1-mile outdoor museum intended to celebrate the neighborhood’s rich African American culture and history, will run along the light-rail line on Crenshaw Boulevard between 48th and 60th streets.

Plans were filed last month to build a mixed-use property at 3670 Crenshaw Blvd. with 573 residential units, grocery, retail and restaurants. West Hollywood-based developer Charles Co. is behind that proposal.

Kaiser Permanente opened a four-story, 100,000-square-foot medical office building in Crenshaw in September 2017, designed for treatment of more than 50,000 of the health care provider’s members in the neighborhood.

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