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Jordan Downs Housing Project To Get 'Urban Village' Makeover

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By Diego Rentería

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted in favor of tearing down the 700-unit Jordan Downs housing project in Watts and rebuilding it as a mixed-income "urban village" community with new park and retail space, according to City News Service.

The redevelopment project, undertaken by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, will dramatically alter the urban fabric of Jordan Downs. The current two-story townhouse-style units, built in 1943 and 1954, will be torn down and the project will be oriented to the surrounding street grid, facilitating movement through Jordan Downs and diminishing the physical insularity ("city within a city") characteristic of Jordan Downs today. The city also annexed 42 acres of adjacent industrial land to include in the new project, bringing the size of Jordan Downs from 49 to nearly 119 acres.

The proposed redevelopment shows four-story townhomes and condominiums around a new park and Family Resource Center, restaurants, and retail space. The redevelopment "would double the existing 700 units at Jordan Downs with a little more than half dedicated to fair market apartments and condos," according to NPR.

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Retail space and market-rate housing interspersed amid affordable housing is done with the hopes of changing the social life of Jordan Downs and by extension, Watts. The concern amid current residents is whether the redeveloped Jordan Downs will replace one-to-one the 700 affordable units or if there will be a loss in affordable units, as has been the trend in recent redevelopments of public housing across the country.

The Housing Authority has stated that current residents of Jordan Downs who are "in good standing" with the Housing Authority will be able to stay in their current units until moving day. The project will be built in phases that will allow new units to be constructed before any current units are torn down.

Jordan Downs was built as temporary housing for defense industry workers during World War II and was turned into a public housing project in the early 1950s. It was one of the last public housing projects to open in Los Angeles. Jordan Downs houses 2,300 people in its 700 units in 49 acres. Watts is home to 40 percent of the city’s 6,500 public housing units, most which are in four public housing projects: Jordan Downs, Imperial Courts, Nickerson Gardens, and Gonzaque Village. Watts has the highest concentration of public housing units in one neighborhood west of the Mississippi River.