Economic Renewal Grounded in Cultural Experience
Destination Crenshaw will be the place to experience the most dynamic expression of Black American art and culture in the United States when completed. But it’s important to us that this project be more than a cultural experience. We want Destination Crenshaw to be a barrier against displacement and a stepping stone to widespread economic prosperity for our community, which is why this project isn’t just about putting up beautiful art that celebrates our legacy. It is about building our future, too, by bringing economic investment and support to the Crenshaw corridor – support that sustains existing Black businesses and brings in new ventures that create good jobs, spur community ownership and uplift our entire community.
Our community deserves a robust commercial corridor that promotes Black ownership, entrepreneurship, self-determination and community empowerment. That’s why we call this arm of the Destination Crenshaw project DC Thrive.
A Way Out of Crisis
When we started developing Destination Crenshaw, we knew that success meant more than building parks, planting trees and installing new art in the community. While those things are important – because Black people deserve to have nice things and beautiful public spaces – to truly be successful, we knew we needed a strategy to protect our existing community from displacement.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shutdowns continued to be extended, Councilmember Marqueece Harris Dawson jumped into action. In the spring of 2020, he began a senior meals program that met two key challenges: 1) protecting vulnerable seniors from a deadly pandemic and 2) keeping Black-owned restaurants from going under, during an economic crisis that 41% of Black businesses did not survive. From this effort, DC Thrive was born.
What Does DC Thrive Do?
Through targeted partnerships with several of South LA’s POC-led community development financial institutions (LISC LA, PCR, Lendistry and Inclusive Action), Destination Crenshaw focuses on skill-building, technical assistance, operations support and providing access to public and private capital. We are also focused on forward-facing initiatives that will provide solid footing for the future of the Crenshaw small business economy. Our ongoing relationships with area businesses and entrepreneurs allow us to identify and deliver the critical assistance needed to continue to weather the current crisis and grow alongside the planned cultural, architectural and public art improvements on the corridor. Specifically, we provide:
- Access to accounting support, such as the LISC LA-sponsored microgrant we supported KAOS Network with for financial accounting software to better prepare the business owner for future funding opportunities.
- Access to operational support, like human resources administrative software for Swift Cafe funded through another microgrant sponsored by LISC LA. This software helped the owner reduce paperwork and increase the efficiency of HR functions.
- Access to marketing support for businesses like Sole Folks and Jordan’s Hot Dogs, which Destination Crenshaw connected to the TEC Leimert Nxt Lvl program where businesses are paired with social media experts to enhance their online presence.
- Access to lending support, such as the connection we made between Hartford Builders and JP Morgan Chase that led to a new lending package that significantly brought down Hartford’s existing interest rate.
- Access to funding, which has resulted in over 30 of our corridor businesses being able to take advantage of the federal paycheck protection program as well as support from LA County and private funders that helped them stay up and running during the pandemic.
Seeing the need for this type of programming, we continued our regular contact with businesses on the boulevard. Now, in just a few short months, we have expanded our reach to nearly 700, including a targeted focus on Black women-owned business and business roundtables that have focused on topics such as social media and technical assistance programming.
In partnership with the community, we are building a future for Black LA based on creating cooperative economic models in which our businesses, artists, and entrepreneurs can grow together. This means building professional and entrepreneurial support networks that we can lean on when times are good and when they are tough.
So, while we’re excited about the Black artists and art that will be displayed along the corridor, an equally important component of our work is the stability and economic viability this project can bring to our community. That’s what DC Thrive strives to do – see that Black LA thrives, collectively, far into the future.