WESTWOOD (CBSLA.com) — After languishing for nearly two decades, the once-vibrant Westwood Village is desperate to make a comeback.
Following a string of gang violence in the late 1990s that cleared the streets immediately surrounding the UCLA campus, local businesses had hoped to draw back visitors to what was once a hub of nightlife activity at dozens of neighborhood bars, restaurants and other one-time hot spots.
But despite the addition of a new hotel complex, a CityTarget store and longtime draws like In-N-Out and other Westwood staples, revitalization efforts have fallen short of expectations.
Now a new campaign is underway to transform the Village into an arts and culture destination.
The Hammer Museum on Wilshire Boulevard has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation to launch "Arts ReStore LA: Westwood", an urban renewal project aimed at setting up a "pop-up village" of local shops and galleries in the struggling district.
UCLA CityLAB has also proposed a public gathering space at the crossing of Westwood and Broxton called the "Zocalo", which would be located at the arrival point from the MTA station portal and would host public events ranging from a weekly farmer's market to a Hammer speakers forum.
But Chapman University urban studies expert Joel Kotkin told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the collective vision for Westwood Village is still a far cry from its current reality.
Chapman University's Joel Kotkin
"How are you gonna turn it into an arts district when you have other arts districts all around it, plus no artist here is gonna be able to live in Westwood," Kotkin said. "It's weird, it's kind of a dead area that's also expensive."
Instead, Kotkin believes supporters of a renaissance in Westwood Village should take into consideration the current economic climate that has also affected the rest of the city of Los Angeles.
"It's not a question of sleight of hand," said Kotkin. "Really, Westwood needs and L.A. needs is a sense of its narrative and its sense of what message we're sending to the rest of the country, why this is such a great place to live and why it has so many advantages."
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