Community and Government Partners Celebrate the Groundbreaking for the Renovation of Los Angeles’ first African-American Owned Hotel
Los Angeles—Today the historic Dunbar Hotel, Los Angeles’ first African-American owned hotel, moved one step closer to a much-anticipated renovation. Councilwoman Jan Perry joined community, government, and private partners to break ground on the Dunbar Village project, which will include the renovation of the Dunbar Hotel. The project represents a major public/private partnership designed to preserve local history, develop quality housing, and support job creation and training.
“Central Avenue and the Dunbar Hotel have long been an important part of our Los Angeles history. It is wonderful to see the Avenue come alive again and know that this historic landmark will be restored for people to enjoy for generations to come,” said Councilwoman Perry, who led efforts to ensure that the Dunbar Hotel was redeveloped as part of an overall plan to revitalize the Central Avenue community. “Dunbar Village will preserve our shared history, create quality jobs for local youth, and offer much-needed affordable housing for families and seniors.”
The city issued a request for proposals (RFP) for both the Dunbar Hotel and Sommerville I & II apartments, which were in need of major rehabilitation. Seeing both properties as part of a mission to preserve and highlight the rich culture of Central Avenue, developers were asked to create a plan that enhanced and celebrated the historic integrity of the Dunbar Hotel property, while offering quality housing and job opportunities for the community. Thomas Safran and Associates (TSA) and the local non-profit, Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD) presented a plan that met the needs of the area and the community. As a result, they are partnering to develop the $29.3 million dollar Dunbar Village development along Central Avenue.
“The renovation of the Dunbar Hotel exemplifies both the history and unity of our community,” said Mark Wilson, Executive Director for CRCD. “With our partner, Thomas Safran & Associates and with the support of the City of Los Angeles, we are creating a true example of holistic community and economic development; both of which benefit all Vernon-Central residents.”
Dunbar Village includes the rehabilitation of the historic Dunbar Hotel and the renovation of the existing Sommerville I and II apartments. All three properties will be connected to create the Dunbar Village, an 83-unit mixed-use, intergenerational community for seniors and families.
CRCD partnered with TSA to connect local youth currently involved in their construction and trades training program to the project. Participants in the project will be placed on-site for jobs ranging from construction, painter, maintenance, and graffiti removal. In total, the project will create 158 construction jobs and 15 permanent jobs.
As part of the Dunbar Village project, the Dunbar Hotel will undergo a complete rehabilitation to restore the building’s historic splendor. Residential units in the new Dunbar Hotel will include 40 units of affordable senior housing. As part of the restoration, TSA and CRCD will develop quality on-site amenities for residents, including a community room with a communal kitchen, media lounge, billiard table, library/reading area, laundry room and fitness room.
Sommerville I and II will also be renovated as part of the project and provide 41 units of affordable family housing. TSA and CRCD will upgrade and reconfigure the common areas of both buildings and rehab the residential units. Additionally, the common area will include a new tot lot, built-in barbecue area, basketball half-court, and laundry room.
The Dunbar Village will also contain ground-floor retail and provide a new public plaza on Central Avenue. Museum in Black, a Head Start Childcare facility, and a computer center operated by Los Angeles Trade Technical College will be integrated into the new project.
To honor their commitment to green building in South Los Angeles, TSA and CRCD will ensure that Dunbar Village is Silver LEED certified.
Hotel Somerville; owned by and named after the University of Southern California’s first African-American graduate, Dr. John Somerville, opened in 1928 to serve African-American’s seeking accommodations while visiting the City of Los Angeles. The hotel hosted abolitionist leaders, writers, and musicians, such as W.E.B Dubois, Langston Hughes, and Lena Horne. It became the focal point of Central Avenue from the 1920’s to the 1950’s, due to its high profile visitors and first class accommodations. The hotel was later renamed the Dunbar Hotel, after African-American poet, Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Until the 1970’s, the Dunbar Hotel created economic activity on Central Avenue and was one of Los Angeles’ epicenters of African-American thought during the civil rights movement.