June 2024

Re-centering Community

Crenshaw Imperial Plaza in Inglewood is a shining example of how impactful programming can elevate not just a retail center, but an entire community.

We’ve used this space in the past to talk about how philanthropic initiatives and community programs are central to the NewMark Merrill mission. About how leading from the heart means building real and meaningful connections and that giving back and lifting up the people and places around us means celebrating and supporting the communities we serve. We wrote in a recent Minute how effective philanthropy can be in creating and sustaining real and impactful community connections.

But what does that actually look like?

Current COMMUNITY art from above.

Originally built in the late 1950s, Crenshaw Imperial Plaza in Inglewood, California, had devolved from a source of great civic pride to a failing center, abandoned by its national grocery and drug stores. NewMark acquired the property and implemented an ambitious multi-million dollar remodeling initiative that revitalized the center. But it is not just the merchandising and remodeling that has made Crenshaw Imperial Plaza such a success story, but our commitment to giving back and to reestablishing important connections with local residents. Those efforts have been meaningful, sustained, and impactful. They range from ambitious and creative community programs to small details that reinforce the idea that Crenshaw Imperial Plaza is an important part of the surrounding community.

It starts with the art and artistry that animates and elevates the space with unique murals from Inglewood artists. Muralists like Pastel Ohwell not only understand Inglewood, they infuse that understanding into the colors and contours of their work, with subjects and perspectives that are recognizable and relatable to anyone who visits the center.

Building and operating places that are not just in a community, but a part of the community also means planning and hosting special events. Crenshaw Imperial Plaza’s programming and community events give area residents—especially families and kids—more reasons to visit, to feel welcome, and to spend more time. Charitable programs aimed specifically at the next generation are always a part of NewMark’s approach, and Crenshaw Imperial Plaza is no exception. In conjunction with the local school district, we have sponsored and hosted mentoring and educational assistance programs, as well as Eggheads, a reading program designed to promote literacy and get kids excited about reading. Last year’s memorable holiday event welcomed 300 Inglewood schoolchildren to Inglewood High School for an afternoon of holiday games, crafts, gift-giving, and facetime with Santa, himself.

Last holiday event was a memorable day at Crenshaw Imperial Plaza.

Building connections also means building relationships, and NewMark Merrill has taken important steps to make sure that happens in Inglewood. Crenshaw Imperial Plaza hosts a community room on the property to host public meetings to gather community feedback. Today, the space remains home to a community liaison employee and is used regularly by local law enforcement and other civic officials. Those connections have weight—they matter in quantifiable ways. Working collaboratively with the city council and the head of economic development was instrumental in executing the redevelopment. And the outstanding relationship NewMark has built with Inglewood council member Dionne Faulk (who is the first African American woman to be elected and the second woman seated on the Inglewood City Council) has led to some inspired programs, such as a turkey giveaway around Thanksgiving.

Event attendees enjoying their time at Crenshaw Imperial Plaza.

Crenshaw Imperial Plaza is hardly alone in the NewMark Merrill portfolio. Projects like Southgate Plaza in South Sacramento also benefit greatly from the same kind of community- and relationship-building that has helped elevate not only NewMark Merrill centers and their tenants, but surrounding communities, as well.

This doesn’t happen overnight. The ROI on giving back and building community connections requires both patience and commitment. But it matters. It elevates retail centers and strengthens communities. And it’s why we continue our philosophy and our retail spaces based on the idea that there is no distinction between doing the right thing and doing the smart thing.

Crenshaw Imperial Plaza lit up at night.

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