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LITTLE TOKYO : Agency Seeks Ideas on Beautification

April 04, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

Be it numbered dance steps in the sidewalk, fortune cookie dispensers on street corners or guided tours of the area, creative ideas are being sought from community members to help beautify Little Tokyo and draw more visitors to the district.

The Community Redevelopment Agency is soliciting suggestions from the community for a "Little Tokyo Public Art Opportunities Inventory," or a list of creative beautification ideas that developers, public agencies and artists can develop.

"If Little Tokyo is to survive in the future, it needs to have something there that people cannot find anywhere else," said Kats Kunitsugu, a longtime community leader. "Japanese food, books, entertainment and services . . . are easily found elsewhere too these days."

Kunitsugu and interior designer Sumiko Takase were chosen by the agency to coordinate the inventory project. They are seeking community members to participate in small group discussions this month. The agency hopes to have a final list by June 30.

At a recent orientation meeting, redevelopment agency arts planner Mickey Gustin showed slides of other cities' projects to the gathering of about a dozen residents, architects, designers, artists and business owners.

One artist installed brass dance footsteps in a Seattle sidewalk to invite pedestrians to follow the numbered moves. Merchants in the area were initially skeptical but were later overjoyed to find that the steps prompted visitors to spend more time in the shopping district, Gustin said.

Gustin also suggested that participants consider how to emphasize Little Tokyo's history and how to link landmarks and sites in the community. For instance, she suggested walking tours originating in Little Tokyo that might extend into the nearby flower, toy and produce markets to connect these neighborhoods.

Individuals can join one or more of five discussion groups, each addressing different issues: Little Tokyo's history; ideas to attract tourists; suggestions for festivals, open markets and other activities; murals, public sculptures and other artwork, and ways to link existing elements in the community.

Each group, which meets for eight weeks, will pick its leader and set its goals and schedules, Gustin said.

Information: Kats Kunitsugu at (213) 628-2725.

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