Neighborhood Spotlight: Rediscovering the City of Champions

The City of Champions is now a city under construction.

With the Los Angeles Rams heading back to town, Inglewood is in the midst of building a new football stadium; high-profile residential, retail and office developments; and three light-rail stations on the next major Metro line.

Throw in a transit-oriented plan to revitalize downtown’s historic Market Street and an air of suburbia, and it’s not hard to see why this South Bay city is being rediscovered by L.A. home buyers.

Not that anyone ever really forgot Inglewood: This is a city where history has been made — in sports, in aviation and in the Southland’s fraught relationship with race, decade after decade.

That history stretches back first to the Native Americans who settled the area around Centinela Springs, and then to the Spanish who displaced them.

It was World War II, and the coming of the defense industry to the South Bay, that jump-started Inglewood’s growth from a rural community to a city in its own right.

During the war, factories to build airplanes to fight in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters created thousands of jobs that would lay the foundation for Inglewood’s new middle class. After the war, the invention of the intercontinental ballistic missile in an abandoned Inglewood church, not to mention proximity to LAX, cemented the South Bay’s status as a center of civil and military aviation.

Against that backdrop of postwar prosperity, Inglewood faced the challenge of peacefully integrating. In 1960, Inglewood was almost entirely white, with just 29 African American residents in a city of more than 60,000. By 1970, court decisions opened schools and neighborhoods to all races, which led middle-class African Americans to make Inglewood home in increasing numbers.

Today, Inglewood is more vibrant than ever.

The Forum, where Lakers greats of yore once dominated the competition, is now a state-of-the-art concert space. Affordable homes and plenty of available industrial space have made Inglewood a draw for artists from across the U.S. It’s adjacent to the economic engine that is LAX. And it will soon be home to the first professional American football in L.A. since the Raiders and Rams packed their bags and left town in 1995.

Neighborhood highlights

Suburban style with a side of sizzle: Inglewood may not have the glitz of some of its neighbors, but with the Forum reborn as a concert venue and the Rams headed to Hollywood Park, world-class entertainment is just a few minutes’ drive from anywhere in town.

An artist’s life: The Inglewood Arts District, centered around the Beacon Arts Building on La Brea Avenue, is one of the region’s hottest, with rents that appeal to artists, starving and otherwise.

Affordability and accessibility: With some of the best prices in town for those who are priced out of L.A., and great freeway and transit connections, Inglewood is a draw for first-time home buyers.

Neighborhood challenges

A perception of danger: While the crime rate is down over years past, the city still suffers from an outsized reputation for crime.

Expert insight

Junior Edey, a real estate executive at Nationwide Real Estate, said Inglewood residents are excited at what the changes to their city will mean for home values.

“Right now, Inglewood is going through a resurgence,” he said. “When a property goes up for sale in Inglewood, it lasts about three days. Everybody is thinking that because the stadium is coming, the home prices are going to double. I don’t know about doubling, but I do think it’ll go up 10% to 20%.”

Market snapshot

In June, the combined median price for single-family homes and condos in Inglewood was $416,500, up 19% year-over-year, according to CoreLogic.

Report card

There are more than two dozen public, private and charter schools within the Inglewood boundaries. Among the public schools is Highland Elementary, which scored 835 out of a possible 1,000 in the 2013 Academic Performance Index. Albert F. Monroe Middle and George W. Crozier Middle scored 752 and 731, respectively. Morningside High scored 621, and Inglewood High had a score of 600.

hotproperty@latimes.com

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