From the editors of Boyle Heights Beat
For years now, plans to redevelop the landmark Sears Tower have served as a kind of ideological litmus test for Boyle Heights residents and business people. The property-owning crowd dreams of an ambitious and far-reaching proposal to transform the aging 14-story structure and the surrounding neighborhood. But renters and activists worry that with redevelopment can come gentrification and its accompanying surge in housing prices.
Boyle Heights Beat first wrote about the Sears Tower in May 2011. Youth Reporter Alejandro Rojas’ story, “An Icon’s Fall from Grace,” chronicled the decline of what was once a centerpiece of the neighborhood.
Today, new ideas are flying fast for what will become of the 1.8 million square foot building. Its new owner, real estate developer Izek Shomof, told ABC 7 on Monday that the tower, which sits on over 22 acres of land, is so vast that it is “a community by itself; a town by itself.”
Not surprisingly, a mirror image of the debate taking place within Boyle Heights is occurring simultaneously in greater Los Angeles in response to Shomof’s interview.
In particular, comments from readers of a news roundup on Curbed L.A. alternated between offering up negative jabs about the community and excitement at the prospect of transforming it. At points, the comments were supportive of the community. Others verged into racism, with disparaging comments about Mexican and Chinese communities in L.A.
“Good luck, that area is sketch as fuck,” one reader posted yesterday.
“I love the idea of it, but I’m not (yet) convinced that East LA/Boyle Heights is ready for such a ‘community,’ another reader comments. “But, just 5 years ago, who would have thought that the Arts District would be an up and coming area?”
“Would people honestly live here?” writes another commentator. “This area is horrible. No one in their right mind would choose to live here.”
Clearly, Boyle Heights could benefit from a revitalized Sears Tower ”“ and a lively and constructive conversation about its future.