A 92-year-old Los Angeles jail that once housed Al Capone may need rebuilding.

Newly elected councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez Appeal to City Departments Examining potential funding for rebuilding the Lincoln Heights Jail at 401 North Avenue 19, Bisnow reports.

Built in 1931 and later used as the seat of the municipal department, the five-story concrete jail has been vacant since 2014. Hernandez said the prison has a history of overcrowding, poor conditions and abuse.

“The land is vacant, almost entirely vacant, in the middle of a community with unprecedented demand for affordable housing, community resources and economic development,” Hernandez says When introducing her motion. “My office will spearhead the eventual dismantling of this prison and restoration of the land for use in Lincoln Heights and the broader Northeast Los Angeles community.”

A plan to rebuild the Art Deco prison fell through late last year. Hernandez has asked several city departments to report within four months a list of possible project funding and what needs to be done to bring it back to use.

The prison has a checkered past. It was originally built to house 625 prisoners, then expanded in 1951. Within a few years, it housed as many as 2,800 prisoners, According to the Los Angeles Conservancy.

It was packed during the Zoot Suit Riots in 1943 and the Watts Riot in 1965. During the crackdown on the city’s LGBTQ community in the 1950s and 60s, it locked many in a separate gay section. Its most famous prisoner was the gangster Al Capone.

Lincoln Heights Prison, decommissioned in 1965, contained asbestos, lead and two oil tanks underground, According to the motion.

In 2016, the city solicited proposals for a nearly 147,000-square-foot building along the Los Angeles River. It tapped Lincoln Property and the Fifteen Group, which planned a “maker district” with manufacturing, apartments, shops and restaurants.

The developer pulled out late last year. That presents a “significant opportunity” to build housing on the site, Hernandez said.

— Dana Bartholomew

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