Vacant Lot Activation
Pop-Up Art Station
Community Mural

Watts Re:Imagined

Background

Watts Re:Imagined is a community-based improvement initiative led by Grant Housing & Economic Development Corp (Grant EDC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Urban Solutions program.

Watts has been called the most powerful neighborhood in Los Angeles. For more than 100 years, Watts has grappled with a troubling legacy of disenfranchisement. The 1965 Watts Riots were testament to the ferocity of racial tension and alienation that has permeated the neighborhood. Currently, Watts has a population of approximately 41,000 people, 62% Latino and 37% Black, living within a median income of $25,000. Through it all, the community has continued to cultivate art, culture, and a sense of hope and possibility.

Context

Watts Re:Imagined was created out of necessity. In 2011, the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) was dissolved with all of the redevelopment agencies in California. The CRA/LA is gone, but the needs and priorities of Watts remain. Watts Re:Imagined stepped in to help fill that void, committed to building sustainable development projects that already have the support of local government and the community.

Projects focus on positive, enduring change in Watts. Using green infrastructure and sustainable development principles, they aim to promote economic opportunity, social equity, public health, environmental stewardship and quality of life.

Project Activities

Kounkuey Design Initiative is one of several organizations collaborating with Watts Re:Imagined to bring the community’s vision to life. In 2015, KDI worked with Watts residents to design and activate an empty lot located at the corner of 103rd and Central Ave – the Gateway to Watts’ proposed main street. The lot, owned by Grant Housing & Economic Development Corporation, is being developed into a community hub with an economic development incubator and affordable housing. Knowing that development is a long process, Watts Re:Imagined wanted to turn the vacant lot parcel into an immediate community benefit. Also in 2015, Watts Re:Imagined held a community block party on the vacant lot to commemorate the 1965 Watts Riots.

In 2016, KDI worked with Watts community-based organizations to use and activate the lot at 103rd and Central to highlight how each organization is creating change for their community.

In 2018, KDI is continuing its ongoing relationship with Watts Re: Imagined as design consultant for their Kaboom Let’s Play Everywhere Grant. The purpose of the program is to bring play opportunities to everyday spaces, especially where public space for play is scarce. KDI is working with the Mayor’s Office and staff at the Watts Library to design and implement a temporary play installation in front of the library that will complement and support existing programming. It will include mobile street furnishings, umbrellas, and play elements to encourage residents of all ages to participate in the activation.

Watts Re: Imagined recently helped attract the $35 million state grant that was awarded in January 2018 for affordable housing and environmental initiatives in Watts. KDI will likely be involved in implementing work under this grant in the coming years, helping us further advance the Watts Re: Imagined project and support residents in making green infrastructure improvements and other priority changes to revitalize the area.