BROADWAY-CRENSHAW CENTER
Crenshaw and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevards
Los Angeles, California

Greater Los Angeles' first regional-class, suburban shopping hub was originally developed as two separate retail centers. Straddling the Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw Manor districts, the adjacent complexes occupied a total of 54 acres, located 5 miles southwest of the center city.

A 4-level (266,000 square foot), Los-Angles-based May Company California was the first operational store at the site. Known colloquially as "May's Crenshaw", it was designed by Albert C. Martin and dedicated October 10, 1947. An adjacent strip of stores was built north of the May Company. This housed tenants such as Richman Brothers men's wear and a J.J. Newberry 5 & 10.

Across Santa Barbara Avenue was a second strip center that was anchored by a 4-level (220,000 square foot), Los Angeles-based The Broadway. This store, designed by Albert B. Gardner, opened November 21, 1947.

The adjacent BROADWAY-CRENSHAW CENTER included Silverwood's men's wear, Leeds Qualicraft Shoes, Bond Clothes, an Owl Rexall Drug and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. A freestanding Von's supermarket, encompassing a total of 58,000 square feet, made its debut January 20, 1948.

The Broadway-anchored facility was serviced by a half-mile-long truck tunnel, accessed by two portals. This was very likely the first major shopping center in the nation with an underground freight-delivery system. By late 1949, the two shopping centers encompassed over 550,000 leasable square feet. Eventually, they would be operated collectively as BROADWAY-CRENSHAW CENTER.

In the 21st century, the orientation of the original BROADWAY-CRENSHAW CENTER may seem strange. Storefronts were built against the sidewalks along Crenshaw Boulevard and Santa Barbara Avenue, with 13 acres of parking situated in the rear. The parking lot in front design had not yet become the American shopping center standard.

Between 1956 and 1963, several small retail structures were built west of the shopping center site. This section of stores, wrapping around the Santa Barbara Avenue, Marlton Avenue and Buckingham Road block, was referred to as SANTA BARBARA PLAZA.

BROADWAY-CRENSHAW CENTER was an instant success. However, by 1980, it had become a run down, past its prime property. In 1984, a major renovation was proposed. Redevelopment was stymied by difficulties with financing and the loss of federal funding. Moreover, the viability of a new, regional-class shopping mall at the site was questioned by developers, retailers and local residents.

Eventually the much-maligned project got underway. The bulk of the 1940s structures were torn down. May Company, The Broadway and the stores making up SANTA BARBARA PLAZA were left standing.

A 2-level, fully-enclosed mall was built along the west side of The Broadway store. Its upper floor extended over West Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard (the name of Santa Barbara Avenue, post-1983) and connected with the May Company building on the north side of the street.

The new BALDWIN HILLS-CRENSHAW PLAZA was developed by the Alexander Haagen Company and Los Angeles County Redevelopment Agency. The complex included a 2-level (141,900 square foot) Sears and encompassed 850,000 leasable square feet, with space for one hundred stores and services. The interior was done in a "trendy art deco" fashion, with pastel colors, skylights and tropical plantings.

An official grand opening was held for the 120 million dollar facility on November 4, 1988. The dedication was attended by Mayor Tom Bradley, Kenneth Hahn, Los Angeles County Supervisor, and Alexander Haagen. Thirty stores opened along with the mall. By November 1989, there were a total of sixty-five in operation.

Major shopping hubs in the vicinity of BALDWIN HILLS-CRENSHAW PLAZA included CENTURY CITY CENTER (1964) {5.6 miles northwest, in Los Angeles}, FOX HILLS MALL (1975) {3.3 miles southwest, in Culver City} and BEVERLY CENTER (1982) {4.8 miles northwest, in Los Angeles}.

The Northridge Earthquake of January 17, 1994 caused minor damage to BALDWIN HILLS-CRENSHAW PLAZA. However, its Robinsons-May (a January 1993 rebranding of the May Company) was not so fortunate. The store was closed until repairs were completed on June 6, 1994.

Peripheral structures were added to the mall site in the 1990s. A (43,300 square foot) Lucky Stores supermarket opened in December 1991. The nation's first Magic Johnson Theatres megaplex, the Crenshaw 12, made its debut on June 30, 1995. It was eventually reconfigured with fifteen screens.

The Broadway was rebranded as a Macy's in November 1996. This store closed January 10, 1999. On January 22, 2003, Wal-Mart opened its first 3-level store in the building. On September 9, 2006, Macy's rebranded Robinsons-May and returned to BALDWIN HILLS-CRENSHAW PLAZA after a 7-year hiatus.

Chicago-based Capri Capital Investors acquired the complex in February 2006. Management was entrusted to Los Angeles-based Primestor Development.

A 30 million dollar renovation of the "CRENSHAW MALL" got underway in late 2010. The Magic Johnson multiplex, which had been shuttered in June, was given a major makeover. Stadium seating, 3-D screens and new decor were installed. The venue re-opened, as the Rave Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza 15 + Extreme, on June 28, 2011.

The mall proper was also given an interior and exterior remodeling, which included a face lift for Macy's, as well as the installation of a new Dining Court and live performance area. Post & Beam and Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants -and an outparcel Staples- joined the tenant list. The remodeled mall was rededicated in April 2012.

In early 2016. WalMart, which had been operating at BALDWIN HILLS-CRENSHAW PLAZA for 13 years, divulged plans to shutter their store. This closing took place only 2 days after the announcement was made. The store went dark on January 17, 2016.

Sources:

The Los Angeles Times
"Evolution of the Shopping Center" / Steven E. Schoenherr
preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
1959 Los Angeles Street Map" / http://www.californiahighways.org / Dan Faigin, webmaster
Hager Pacific press release / March 31, 2003
Hager Pacific press release / February 1, 2006
http://www.crenshawplaza.com
http://www.festivalcos.com
http://www.laist.com
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