San Francisco's Japan Center Struggles to Shake Urban Renewal History

The ongoing effort to improve Japantown shows just how difficult it can be to shed the past.
May 13, 2009, 10am PDT | rbregoff
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"San Francisco's Japan Center opened in 1968 as a showcase of the era's most modern thinking in urban design.

Three cleared blocks were reconceived in an attempt to combine the best of the suburbs and city: a shopping center that mimicked the charm of Japan's traditional streets and shops, but with climate-controlled walkways and convenient underground parking.

Forty years later, the dated Japan Center, with its three indoor malls and drab, concrete plaza, is an example of what urban planners are trying to deconstruct both in San Francisco and around the country.

As many cities are struggling to undo the 1960s auto-centric version of America, they are confronted not only with the outdated design of the past, but also its structures - many built before modern codes required more seismic fortitude."

Thanks to Rob Brgoff

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Published on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 in The San Francisco Chronicle
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