Fabulous Again: Can the New Inglewood Forum Renew All of Inglewood?

With its new owners, The Forum has recently lit up Manchester Boulevard. | Photo: Courtesy Madison Square Garden Company

This week I got an email from my councilman congratulating the Inglewood community of stakeholders for the imminent reopening of the Forum next week. The effusiveness was a bit too self-congratulatory, but at the same time I understood it -- we don't get a lot of successful construction or improvement projects as significant as this one, to say nothing of one that finishes on time.

That's because Madison Square Garden, The Forum's new owners, had a concert schedule to keep; the Eagles were booked months ago as the rehabbed Forum's debut act. They had a deadline to meet, which I totally understand. Too, MSG is anxious to prove to the naysayers that The Forum can not only rise again as a primetime concert venue, it can seriously challenge the downtown nexus of the Staples and Nokia Theater.

A big part of the naysaying is about location. Inglewood is not only an unsexy ZIP code, to put it diplomatically, it's pretty far south. Downtown and Hollywood or thereabouts are where most people go to see live performances by big pop headliners like the Eagles. The South Bay mostly has auditoriums -- El Camino College, Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. People go south to spend time at the beach or shop at its endless malls. It might be tony, but it lacks the cachet of a place with an L.A. ZIP code, as well as a certain edge that would appeal to fans of Jay Z and Justin Timberlake.

Inglewood is not L.A., but it's hard by, as they say, and it has plenty of edge. But evidently too much edge, or not the right kind. Inglewood has an interesting problem: despite its demographics, is essentially seen as a troubled suburb rather than as an urban center with a lot of good characteristics, like a sizable middle class. Whether The Forum can clear up the confusion or rebrand Inglewood altogether remains to be seen.

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My councilman seems hopeful. So does a neighbor of mine. I talked to Lana last weekend on a dog walk and she's convinced that the new Forum, coupled with the big development that's coming online to fill the space left vacant by the soon-to-be-razed Hollywood Park racetrack, will raise property values all over town.

We might finally be heading for gentrification, she said. She sees signs of that already happening: a few houses in the neighborhood whose new owners have done cutting-edge remodels and artistic landscaping that's more common on the Westside. There's a growing sense of investment around here, Lana said, and The Forum will foster that. It will lead the way.

I'm not as optimistic. But I have to say that The Forum has lit up Manchester Boulevard, if not the whole city, and I mean that literally.

Repainted a burnished red and white -- its original color scheme from the '60s called "sunset red" -- The Forum now glows at night, like a sculpture in the middle of a water fountain. It looks fresh, ready, awake where it had been long asleep. I hate to say this, but it looks very much like somebody else owns it; it does not look like Inglewood's handiwork. I wonder what that will mean.

Driving by The Forum at night and glimpsing its new splendor, I feel pangs of nostalgia, and a certain anxiety. Will it remain a kind of local gathering place for joggers, walkers, and dog lovers like me? Will it be something we can still claim, or will it be walled off? The banners up and down Manchester proclaim that the Forum is "fabulous again." I hope that eventually applies to the city as a whole, though in truth, we have not been fabulous in a long time, if ever. But in L.A. you can certainly always aspire to it. Even if you don't quite have the ZIP code.

About the Author

Journalist and op-ed columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan's first-person accounts of politics and identity in L.A., with an eye toward the city's African American community, appear weekly on KCET's SoCal Focus blog.
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