Photo by Jonathan Olivares
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The historic Sears Tower in Boyle Heights will soon have a major makeover and community members are weighing in on what should become of the property.
For the first time, new owner and developer Izek Shomof and his team, joined the public on Saturday, April 5th to discuss the building’s future at a forum hosted by Boyle Heights Beat.
Shomof’s team presented early renderings of the structure, which included a 3500 square-foot market, office space and up to 1000 residential units.
Community residents had the opportunity to share their memories, concerns and vision for the Sears Tower. Opinions were heard from all angles, and passions flared. While some community members were enthusiastic about plans for the Sears Tower, others protested its development for fear of gentrification.
Watch a video of the community forum below:
Since the forum, the Boyle Heights Beat created a survey to allow community residents who missed the forum to weigh in. Residents anonymously provided a variety of responses tied to various topics.
Economic development and Housing
While some readers suggested shops like Wal-Mart, Starbucks and WingStop, others asked for a supermarket.
“By bringing a supermarket to the area. A stone’s throw away are low income “projects” that lost their local walking distance grocery store, which has now become a mega liquor store. These people, many without automobiles now have to struggle to do their grocery shopping.”
A large need and concern revolved around housing, as one reader writes, “Allow more room for affordable housing in this multi use project. It can provide families and individuals with housing opportunities normally limited in the area.”
Survey participants also saw an opportunity for jobs. “It can bring jobs to the community, it can serve as a neighborhood beautification project. It might also help bring crime down. It might lure further real estate development into Boyle Heights, it might help in the uprising of Boyle Heights.”
Others expressed the need to carry out this project with strategy. “Economic development, investment in an under represented community, if done right, can be a catalyst for positive development and appropriate change in the community,” writes one reader.
Although most participants expressed the need for improvements at the Seasr Tower, many also shared concerns that the development would raise rents and bring forth gentrification.
“I’m worried that through its redevelopment it will push out other residents in the area who have lived and rented here for years and that it won’t really address the housing crisis in a way that is inclusive of all community stakeholders.”
“If they turn into luxury condos for rich yuppies, you are further pushing out native local residents and contributing to gentrification.”