We have confirmed that on Friday the Crenshaw Mall was quietly sold to the corrupt, racist and failed developer David Schwartzman of Harridge Development Group. This is of course disappointing. At its root, the decision by the sellers of the mall (public pension funds and Deutsche Bank/DWS) to sell to Schwartzman instead of the Black community illustrates that systemic and generational racism in real estate remains alive and well over 70 years after the landmark Shelley v. Kraemer Supreme Court decision. While much has changed since the 1940s, anti-Black racist institutions and racist people remain in powerful positions to thwart the right of Black people to self-determination and control the spaces we occupy.
From the beginning, multiple white-led institutions and the system that supports them have viewed our community’s 40-acre mall as an opportunity for white outsiders to profit from the centuries-long exploitation of Black people and systemic displacement of Black businesses and residents. Downtown Crenshaw is a transformative project that seeks to reverse this trend, by putting the Black community in control of its land and destiny. For these white-led institutions, the concept of Black community control of Black community space is antithetical to their practices, which are rooted in America’s genocide of the Indigenous people, land theft, enslavement of Africans and bombing of Black Wall Streets.
The only reason corrupt and racist Schwartzman was able to buy our Black mall is because he was provided special treatment that Downtown Crenshaw was never afforded. White-led institutions and white people, led by Tim Ellsworth of Deutsche Bank/DWS and the bureaucrats at public pension funds who owned the mall (LACERA, UC Board of Regents, Texas Teachers, NYCERS, NYC Teachers, LA Fire and Police Pension), bent over backwards for the racist once-bankrupt developer, who is a cross between Donald Trump and Donald Sterling. They provided Schwartzman multiple extensions, reduced the sales price (furthering the gap between our higher bid and his) and allowed him to swap equity partners.
Ultimately, the sale of the Crenshaw Mall is far from final. It is going to be litigated in the courts and reviewed by oversight bodies. In addition to Downtown Crenshaw evaluating our many legal options, we are aware of at least four lawsuits that are currently being discussed by public pension fund members, civil rights organizations, and another qualified Black bidder that was passed over.
Downtown Crenshaw did everything that was asked of us despite repeated gamesmanship by the public pension funds and Deutsche Bank/DWS. We outbid Harridge and submitted a fully-financed offer of $115 million with more favorable terms. We secured the backing of mission-aligned financial partners, who want to see our community uplifted not uprooted. We engaged in a historic fundraising campaign where we raised $28 million in philanthropy in just two weeks. We assembled a world-class development team that included national experts in community-centered development, along with the developers who rebuilt the World Trade Center after 9/11. And most importantly, we worked collectively and transparently with the community to craft a community-centered vision for the mall and a mechanism by which stakeholders could buy shares in the mall. With over 2,300 members and the support of over 300 community groups we have built a movement that will continue to fight for community control of our Crenshaw Mall and will fight Schwartzman every step of the way until he is out of our community for good. Simultaneously, we will continue to advance the many other programs of our transformative effort to liberate the land and stabilize Black communities, known as the Liberty Ecosystem.
Racists rigged the rules to steal our community’s 40 acres to put it in the hands of a racist, but we will win them back by any means necessary. The war for Black community self-determination and liberation continues, and the community will win.