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Can Little Tokyo Survive the Growth of Downtown LA?

Big changes loom large over Little Tokyo, Kaid Benfield reports. The question is whether higher land values will steal away its character and cultural significance.
April 12, 2012, 2pm PDT | Ryan Lue
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Long the cultural fount of the Japanese community in Southern California, Little Tokyo stands in stark contrast to the surrounding Downtown Los Angeles. But the revitalization of Downtown in recent years, along with the arrival of a new light rail station in 2009, threaten to dramatically alter its landscape.

"Potentially, the station could become one of the city's busiest," Benfield writes, "because of a project called the Regional Connector, an extension of nearby transit lines that will transform the Little Tokyo station into a major transfer center."

The arrival of transit and nearby gentrification have driven speculation over increases in land value, which in turn could bring in businesses and residents that would diminish the cultural identity of the area. Little Tokyo Service Center, a nonprofit development corporation, has sponsored a number of projects of great importance to the neighborhood, such as affordable housing, an arts complex, and a transitional shelter for victims of domestic violence. However, increased land prices could make it harder to compete with for-profit developers.

"Some mid-rise, upscale condo buildings have come in as well; these are architecturally appealing and appropriately scaled but raise the question of maintaining affordability in the district," Benfield explains.

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Published on Monday, April 9, 2012 in Switchboard
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