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The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved spending $10.5 million on pre-development for the first phase of a plan to revitalize a blighted area of Koreatown.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has championed efforts to demolish and renovate dilapidated county buildings on South Vermont Avenue between Fourth and Sixth Streets.

“This is about revitalization,” Ridley-Thomas said. “It’s a declaration on blight.”

A 400,000-square-foot headquarters for the Department of Mental Health, 72 units of senior housing and a community center comprise the first stage of the project. Offices for the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Community and Senior Services are expected to follow.

Ridley-Thomas said the plan will generate 1,300 jobs.

Residents welcomed the idea of a community center, which they envisioned as a permanent home for a roving, local orchestra and a place for seniors and kids to spend time, take classes and access other services.

A local YMCA and a nearby youth center have been overwhelmed by the need for programs in one of the most densely populated areas of the county.

“They were expecting within five years 4,000 members. But within two years, the membership went up to 12,000,” Rev. John Park said of the YMCA.

Park told the board he found seniors hanging out in a McDonald’s parking lot because they had nowhere to go.

Many community members said the planned 12,500-square-foot center would not be large enough and urged the board to back an upgrade to 40,000 square feet.

Ridley-Thomas said the center was added in response to community feedback and urged residents to celebrate its inclusion as a win. He pointed out that the county is relying on a public-private partnership to develop the site, so market considerations are relevant.

Trammell Crow Los Angeles submitted the winning proposal and the YMCA has been selected to provide programming for the community center.

“A tried, true, tested provider had to be identified,” Ridley-Thomas said. “The Y is on the hook to provide the services. Providing services for 12,500 square feet is one proposition. To provide services to sustain a facility that is three times that much is another proposition altogether.”

However, he pointed out that this is only the first phase of the project.

“We will do more. Count on it,” Ridley-Thomas said.

The project is expected to be in pre-development through April 2018, when a full development budget is scheduled to be approved.

–City News Service 

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