Slowly, steadily, in the shadow of downtown Los Angeles, change is coming to the history-rich but long beleaguered heart of Central Avenue.
Crime is down and optimism up. There’s a new cafe, a new grocery store, new shops and apartment buildings. On 42nd Street there’s the Dunbar Hotel — a showpiece during the area’s heyday as a jazz mecca — which reopened this summer as senior housing after a painstaking restoration.
A sense that the neighborhood is on the mend could be felt Saturday on the streets surrounding the Dunbar, where an energetic crowd of about 2,500 convened for the 18th annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival.
“This is a celebration of black L.A. and L.A.’s jazz history,” said Mark Wilson, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, organizer of the event, which culminates with Sunday night’s show by Gilbert Castellanos and the New Latin Jazz Quintet. “But it’s more than that. It’s also a celebration of the entire city’s cultural heritage and a sign that things are changing. People are willing to invest in Central Avenue again.”