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Leimert Park is the Soul of Los Angeles, an African American cutlural center within the city filled with cafes, shops and music. Near it, Baldwin Hills is the high-class star of the BET Network's successful foray into reality TV.

In between these two L.A. neighborhoods is an embarrassment no one wants to talk about - Marlton Square, aka Santa Barbara Plaza.

The 20-acre shopping center, apparently already in disrepair in the early 90s, was slowly killed as the city attempted to buy it, then sell it to a private firm to redevelop. First there was talk of working with legend Magic Johnson. Then football star Keyshawn Johnson dropped out. Then a check-bouncing, politically-connected developer became the city's partner.

Today all the buidlings, dozens of storefronts with a mammoth parking lot in the middle, are still there - crumbling. All but a few shops are boarded up and waiting for the bulldozer that never comes. Oh, there's one new multi-story nursing home, but it's never been occupied. The deserted center has hurt business strips nearby, including the adjacent Crenshaw Mall, attracting criminal elements and being blamed for lowering property values.

And $50 million later, L.A. officials are back to square one with their bombed-out plan, holding back a community's promise.

The numbers are murky but it's been reported there was $43 million in government subsidies tied to the project and that at least $15 million of that has been lost - plus an additional $30 million in private funds were spent.

Most of the political players are still around as the next developer in line, current owners of the adjacent Crenshaw Mall, courts city officials. What will happen?

 
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