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Watts is Working on a Huge, Neighborhood-Wide Makeover

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For many, Watts is synonymous with the folk art towers of the same name and the mass civil unrest that engulfed the neighborhood 50 years ago this summer, but the South LA neighborhood is now after a new claim to fame: it's looking to remake itself into a "national example of sustainable development." A new partnership steered by Watts-based Grant EDC (a nonprofit connected to the Grant AME Church) and the Natural Resources Defense Council's Urban Solutions program, and in collaboration with several other local organizations, seeks to revitalize the neighborhood and strengthen the community by remaking its buildings and streetscapes so that they're more inviting to pedestrians and more connected to parks, green spaces, and transit. The ambitious goal is to turn Watts into "a thriving neighborhood that its residents deserve."

The project is called Watts Re:Imagined and it will pick up where the community redevelopment agencies—local governmental organizations that encouraged development in areas that needed it, before the governor dissolved them all—left off, pushing forward a unified vision of transit-oriented, green-minded, community-focused development, says a release for Watts Re:Imagined's official launch this week.

Under the Plan, 103rd Street would be the "Main Street" of Watts, with space for people to gather, flourishing local businesses, and people-friendly streets, as well as "mixed-use buildings, transit-oriented development, sustainable architecture, and plenty of green alleys and shade trees," says the organization's website. Right at 103rd and Central, there would be the Watts Park Gateway, a mix of transit-oriented housing with space for businesses and pedestrian links to Ted Watkins Memorial Park, on the northeast corner of the intersection. The revitalized strip could eventually stretch for four blocks, linking up with the Blue Line stop at 103rd Street, says the Huffington Post. Plans to improve environmental health in the area and to weave sustainable design into new public projects are also key parts of Watts Re:Imagined.

A lot of community-generated planning work has already been done in Watts and now Watts Re:Imagined is mostly hoping to "consolidate and implement" those plans so that projects can move forward. The initiative would also mesh with in-the-works projects nearby, like the huge undertaking at Jordan Downs that is set to turn those projects into a mixed-income neighborhood with tree-lined streets, 1,400 new apartments, and an "urban village" vibe.
· Re-Imagining Watts 50 Years After the Riots [NRDC]
· Watts Re:Imagined [Official site]
· LA is Going to Turn Watts's Jordan Downs Into an "Urban Village" [Curbed LA]