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LITTLE TOKYO : Library to Move to Neptune Building

August 22, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

The theatrical group East West Players is again the prime candidate to move into the historic Union Church building following the withdrawal of the Little Tokyo Branch Library from the restoration project.

The city Board of Library Commissioners recently voted to move the Little Tokyo library to a 5,000-square-foot, ground-floor space in the Neptune Building at 701 E. 3rd St., ending community debate over the library's new location.

The library, which circulated 121,000 materials last year, has been housed for several years in a 2,400-square-foot space in the United Centenary Methodist Church at 3rd and Central streets. The library sought a new site because it needs more space to house its 19,000-book collection, which includes a big selection of Japanese-language materials, and its lease with the church expires in February.

Some community leaders advocated moving the library to the long-vacant Union Church building at 120 N. San Pedro St. as part of a renovation project spearheaded by the Little Tokyo Service Center. The service center wants to restore the 70-year-old brick structure, which is part of the Little Tokyo Historic District, and envisioned the library as the main tenant to share the space with Visual Communications, a nonprofit media organization.

But a number of library supporters and patrons favored the Neptune Building because of its proximity to the current library site. Supporters also said the Neptune site would keep the library conveniently close to local schools and to Yaohan Plaza, where many Japanese-speaking patrons shop before or after going to the library.

"We didn't want to lose the patron base by moving," said Janet Minami, president of the Friends of the Little Tokyo Library.

Library staff said the Neptune Building management has offered a $4,700 monthly rent for 10 years, while the lease at Union Church was estimated at $6,000 monthly. City officials are now negotiating lease details with Neptune officials.

Lisa Sugino, project manager for the Little Tokyo Service Center, said she and other Union Church advocates were disappointed with the library commission's June selection, but said they will proceed with the Union Church project by meeting with representatives of East West Players and Visual Communications to discuss moving the two organizations into the historic building. Among the key considerations are whether the two nonprofit tenants can shoulder the estimated $100,000 annual cost of maintaining the building.

East West Players, which originally pulled out of the project because of the cost, also must consider space allocations, said spokeswoman Patty Ting.

"We're looking for a place that could fit two 99-seat stages. Architecturally, is it possible to accommodate us (at the Union Church)?" Ting asked. "It'd be an ideal location for us . . . but we haven't come to any concrete decisions."

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