Almost two years after county officials approved it, construction is set to begin on a $140-million, mixed-use project that will be built on a pair of former county parking lots near Olvera Street — a project that will also funnel upward of $250,000 a year to a local nonprofit.
The La Plaza Village project, on the corner of Spring Street and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, will include stores and restaurants and 355 housing units, 71 of which are required to be affordable to low- and moderate-income tenants.
A landscaped walkway with signage about the area's history will join the project with the nearby Olvera Street merchants district, the Plaza de Cultura y Artes center and Union Station.
The new project will also house a commercial kitchen that will hold culinary classes and broadcast demonstrations of Mexican cooking, and will be the site of the Los Angeles headquarters of the Cesar Chavez Foundation.
The foundation is a co-developer of the project, along with a subsidiary of Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co.
The project was set up in part to benefit La Plaza de Cultura y Artes Foundation, a nonprofit that runs a downtown center celebrating Mexican American culture in Southern California.
Under the deal approved by the county, the La Plaza foundation will lease the lots from the county for $1 a year and in turn will sublease them to the developer for $250,000 a year during construction and for a portion of the income brought in by the property afterward. The project is expected to open in 2018.
The foundation, which gets much of its funding from the county, has struggled in the past to bring in additional money to run programs and keep up the renovated historic buildings that house the center, although foundation officials said the finances have now stabilized.
Both the cultural center and the new project were spearheaded by former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who retired from her county post in 2014 and still serves as an unpaid board member of the La Plaza foundation.
"These were just ugly parking lots," Molina said Wednesday, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the project. "It's going to beautify the area. It's going to connect the old with the new."
Molina's successor, Hilda Solis, pushed for labor requirements on the project, setting terms requesting that contractors pay workers the city living wage and that at least 30% of workers be from the area around the project and 10% from groups defined as disadvantaged. At her request, the developer was also required to give $30,000 to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority for outreach efforts.
"We're going to see many opportunities for people to get jobs" as a result of the project, Solis said Wednesday. "All I can see on the horizon is more opportunity for L.A. County and also more revenue — more people will be able to take that money home to better their lives."