Inglewood, CA Pins Hopes for Commercial Revival on L.A. Rams

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At Posh Klipz, the barber and owner Sonny Wells points to a framed photograph of Magic Johnson, sitting for a haircut in his shop two decades ago. “That was my best client,” Mr. Wells says.

Eventually, Mr. Johnson, a longtime Los Angeles Laker, stopped frequenting Posh Klipz, going for the shaved look instead. Chairs really emptied at the barbershop, though, in 1999 after the Lakers and the National Hockey League team the Kings left the Forum here, Mr. Wells said, and moved to the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles, about a half-hour’s drive northeast.

This year, there is fresh hope to revive Inglewood, which is planning to welcome the Rams football team back to the Los Angeles area after 20 years in St. Louis. The Rams’ owner, E. Stanley Kroenke, is building an 80,000-seat stadium, at a cost likely to exceed $2 billion, to accommodate the team, and an entertainment complex is being built nearby as part of a continuing project called Hollywood Park.

The development will include about 900,000 square feet of retail space, a hotel, 2,500 residential units and 25 acres of public parks, all on the site of the former Hollywood Park Racetrack. Plans include almost 800,000 square feet of office space.

“This development adds a dimension to the city that it has never had before,” said Inglewood’s mayor, James T. Butts Jr.

Inglewood, a city of 110,000, is just 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles and a short drive from its upscale western environs like Beverly Hills. “Inglewood is strategically located in the L.A. basin,” said Bob Healey, a senior vice president at the commercial real estate firm CBRE who specializes in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. Mr. Healey added that commercial values in the areas surrounding the stadium site had already risen.

The city has a predominantly black, lower-income community with pockets of middle-class residents and a growing Hispanic population, said Jamie Brooks, a CBRE executive.
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“The stadium reinforces the idea that this is going to be a destination,” Mr. Brooks said. “It doesn’t take a master developer to figure it out: This place has a lot of potential.”

In 2005, Stockbridge Capital Group, a real estate investment management firm, acquired the 238-acre Hollywood Park site, across the street from the Forum and a premier place for horse racing in its day. The firm aimed to build the entertainment complex, which will include a 6,000-seat performing arts theater.

The Kroenke Group, a development firm founded by Mr. Kroenke in 2013, bought a 60-acre parcel adjacent to Hollywood Park and the Forum, which reopened in 2014 and hosts many concerts. The groups formed a joint venture the next year, the Hollywood Park Land Company, to develop Hollywood Park and the newly acquired site.

In January 2015, Mr. Kroenke announced plans to build the stadium without any public money, and the joint venture embarked on an effort to gather signatures for a voter initiative. Within weeks, about 22,000 signatures, more than double the number needed, were collected, petitioning the city to put the stadium project to a vote. It was approved.

“Our deal involved no financial contribution from the city,” said Mr. Butts, who supported the project. “Everything public and private is financed by the developer.”

Only in a year when the city derives more than $25 million in direct tax revenue from the project is it responsible for any financial reimbursement of the cost of public infrastructure, Mr. Butts said.

The project received a major benefit on Jan. 12, when the National Football League announced the Rams’ return. The team’s new home will be the Inglewood stadium, where it is expected to start playing in 2019. The door is open for the San Diego Chargers to move to the stadium, too.

Read the full article by Lauren Herstik at the NY Times, Click here.