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Community News: Central

LITTLE TOKYO : Housing Project Design Scaled Back

July 17, 1994|TOMMY LI

Faced with a need to find additional financing to build a proposed 100-unit low-income housing project, a developer has decided to cut back on some one-bedroom spaces and build more family-size rooms, officials said.

Little Tokyo Service Center, a nonprofit community group, opted for the change in Casa Heiwa's design after failing to obtain federal tax credits last month from a state committee, said Lisa Sugino, project manager for the center.

The center is trying to finance the $16.8-million project on 3rd Street, between Los Angeles and San Pedro streets. It had hoped to raise between $5 million and $6 million by selling tax credits to businesses, Sugino said.

Despite the setback, center officials plan to reapply for the credits next month. To do so, they have to redesign the six-story complex, adding 600 square feet of space to the original 97,500-square-foot building, she said.

Portions of the children's sandlot and a courtyard would be shaved to accommodate the extra space. The complex would still include a child-care center, a basketball court, underground parking and social services run by the developer's partner in the project, Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment.

Sugino said the mix of studios and one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units is also expected to change, with more two- and four-bedroom spaces inside Casa Heiwa--a name that combines the Spanish word for "house" with the Japanese word for "peace."

"We still have 100 units," she said, "we just made some of the one-bedrooms into two-bedrooms."

The modifications, if approved by the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Los Angeles City Council, would affect senior citizens the most--though Casa Heiwa is also intended to house low-income workers and their families, Sugino said.

As of last week, 160 people--mainly Japanese-speaking senior citizens--have called Little Tokyo Service Center to ask for housing applications before the complex has been built, she said.

"Since there's no way we can accommodate all the seniors who are interested in living there, we're hoping that they will double up and live in some of the two-bedroom units," Sugino said.

The Little Tokyo Service Center has overcome bureaucratic hurdles before. In February, it finally reached a financing agreement with the CRA, which has committed to lending $6.1 million to the center. In exchange, the developer will pay $2.25 million for the property, now used as a parking lot for Caltrans employees.

Also expected is $4 million from the Century (105) Freeway housing replacement program, created to make up for housing demolished during freeway construction, Sugino said.

Although the question of receiving tax credits is up in the air, construction is expected to begin next spring as scheduled.

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