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MTA postpones vote on Mariachi Plaza development until early next year

Mariachi Plaza's
Mariachi Plaza's "kiosko," with the historic Boyle Hotel in the background.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A plan to build new retail and office space at the iconic Mariachi Plaza in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights has been put on hold until February. The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board opted on Thursday to postpone a planned vote on the contract approval for developers to build roughly 120,000 square feet of retail and medical office space surrounding the plaza at First and Boyle, which since 2009 has been a Metro Gold Line stop.

MTA spokesman Mark Littman said the motion to postpone was introduced by County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who sits on the MTA board.

"People expressed concerns that they needed more time," Littman said. He added that waiting until early next year would allow additional time for community input on the planned development. The board also held off on approving development contracts for planned affordable housing at two nearby Metro Gold Line stations, Littman said.

Last week, the MTA's planning committee recommended that the board approve an agreement with a developer to build 70,000 square feet of retail space surrounding Mariachi Plaza, along with 50,000 square feet of medical offices. Some of the development would take place on MTA-owned land, the rest on privately owned land.

A building on the private parcel now houses several small business and current plans call for demolition of the structure. Last week, plaza business owners told KPCC they felt uneasy about the project.

"The only thing I do know is that if they are going to build everything new, the rent is going to be high, and it’s not going to be in our hands to get a place to rent or keep the business," said Armando Salazar, owner and chef at Santa Cecilia Restaurant, a small Mexican eatery that has been there for 19 years. "There is no way to do that.”

The plaza's history - and its name - date back decades, to when there was little there save for the 1889 Boyle Hotel - once a popular crash pad for immigrant musicians. They often waited outside a small donut shop, hoping to be hired for gigs. The area has seen its share of changes and development in recent years, including the Metro station opening and, more recently, a steady trickle of gentrification, as new businesses have opened and downtown development to the west has taken off.