South Los Angeles takes center stage at ULI Urban Marketplace

By Mathew Gates
In the building, inthebuildingla.com


On March 29, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in Los Angeles hosted the Urban Marketplace, an annual real estate expo created to draw attention to the economic opportunities that exist in the city’s most underinvested communities.

For more than twenty years, the conference has succeeded in pushing back old ideas that communities deserved to invest in. In the process, the Urban Marketplace became a flagship event for the organization and a spark for development activities from downtown Los Angeles to Inglewood.

When the conference first launched in 2000, just getting the industry to pay attention to communities like South Los Angeles and the black and brown professionals in the community was a tall order.

According to event co-founder Michael Banner, president and CEO of Los Angeles LDC, a lot has changed since then.

“Twenty years ago the sign didn’t look like this,” Banner said.

However, with billions of capital now flowing into South Los Angeles, event planners have focused in recent years on ensuring that new developments add value to existing residents rather than displace them.

As Banner pointed out ahead of this year’s event, “Yes, over the past 10 years the community of West Adams south of the freeway has seen a revival, but it’s not the people who lived there. for generations. Like so many others, these people have been displaced.

Hosted in the historic Trust Building in Downtown Los Angeles, the 2022 Urban Market was all about South Los Angeles.

Showcasing some of the most innovative ideas, projects and thought leaders in the South Los Angeles development community, the event focused on the intentional and strategic work needed to create greater equity around new investments in infrastructure.

“Infrastructure is one of the most powerful and necessary tools to revitalize struggling neighborhoods. And yet, past projects have harmed communities,” said Urban Marketplace president and Ashurst attorney Shmel C. Graham.

For event organizers like Graham, the real purpose of the program is “to encourage thoughtful and meaningful development for these communities.”

That’s why, according to Graham, the program was intentionally structured to increase the exchange of ideas.

“Learning is a two-way street,” Graham said. “Developers and industry professionals as well as the community. If we realize how much we all work together to create the built environment, we will have better projects that we can all be proud of.

From a fireside chat with Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins, to nearly twenty panel discussions led by some of the most influential development figures working in the community, everything about the event was designed to create an incredibly interactive environment.

As a result, the conference created a particularly unique opportunity for public sector transportation and housing leaders to engage with community advocates, small business owners, city planners, designers and commercial real estate professionals. neighborhood-based.

According to Banner, who was honored at the event for his dedication and commitment to increasing real estate opportunities for people of color across Los Angeles, “It was a breath of fresh air coming out of the pandemic. to be in a room with various professionals trying to solve problems.

For Danny Bakewell Jr., community advocate, entrepreneur and longtime real estate developer, the conversation is an important first step.

“I think whenever we can find ourselves in a space that can benefit our community, we have an obligation to be there,” Bakewell said.

But Bakewell also challenged the finance and development sector to go far beyond mere words and countless corporate pledges to raise equity in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

“We can’t just have the standard rhetoric on all of these opportunities,” Bakewell said. “The true show of commitment is based on your show of sacrifice.”

For Bakewell, this commitment must extend to things that have a legitimate impact on community empowerment, such as housing, jobs, contracts and opportunities.

Using the $2.1 billion Crenshaw-LAX transit project as an example of a true commitment by a public agency to partner with the community, Bakewell noted that transit construction mitigation programs Metro were created to address legitimate community concerns.

“Stephanie Wiggins has shown her commitment to keeping local businesses running along Crenshaw because she has provided grants. It did not grant loans. She gave grants. It was his level of commitment. That was Metro’s level of commitment.

For Banner and others, raising awareness of a different way to approach community development has always been the goal of the urban market.

Today, thanks to Banner’s vision and ULI’s continued commitment, the conference provides a space for the presentation of solutions by people with the best experiences and perspectives to offer them.

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