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Community News: Central

City Council Scraps Development Project

October 09, 1994|TOMMY LI

Efforts to revitalize Little Tokyo suffered a major blow after the City Council voted to drop a $150-million development project, community and business leaders said.

"The community was looking forward to something happening on that 11-acre site," said Al Taira, president of the mayor's Little Tokyo Community Development Advisory Committee. "It would have enhanced our area so that more people would come."

Instead, last Wednesday's 11-2 council vote to scrap the six-year-old 1st Street North plan has left some residents and merchants frustrated with city bureaucracy.

If approved, Barker Pacific Group would have built an office tower, private hotel, apartment and retail space on city-owned land at 1st and Alameda streets. Most of the property is now used for parking lots, city officials said.

It could also have drawn large crowds to two nearby arts centers--the Museum of Contemporary Art's Temporary Contemporary and the Japanese American National Museum, Taira said.

But most of the council members said they couldn't justify spending millions of dollars on office space when the city is reducing staff and facing a budget crisis.

Their actions have prompted the developer to threaten to file a lawsuit against the city, which could leave the 1st and Alameda site undeveloped for years, community and business leaders said.

Businesses along 1st Street will be the ones that suffer the most, they said.

"When it's not going to happen, now I think the ones that are here--that are trying to weather out this recession--there's really not too much hope for them," said Frances Hashimoto, president of the Little Tokyo Business Assn.

Nevertheless, Taira believes all is not lost in the community. He points to proposed projects in other areas of Little Tokyo, such as a housing, commercial and retail space on 2nd Street, between Central Avenue and Alameda Street.

But he fears that even those proposals, outlined in the Community Redevelopment Agency's five-year plan, could be delayed because the city didn't move on 1st Street North.

"You don't want to be the first one up and nobody's around," said Taira, also a businessman in Little Tokyo. "There's no urgency to hurry up, and we need to hurry up."

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