Chinatown was largely left behind during the last decade in LA’s urban renaissance, but that may be changing in the near future with a slew of new projects either under construction or waiting in the pipeline
Part of LA’s true historical gems lie to the north of the 101 freeway. Unfortunately, when the 101 freeway was built–with its trench-like chasm slicing through and forming a deep scar in the landscape–it mercilessly destroyed the urban connection between the LA Civic Center and the oldest historic heart of Downtown LA, which includes El Pueblo, Union Station, and Chinatown.
The overpass bridges over the “101 chasm” that tenuously at best connect this northern area with the rest of Downtown LA are considered a joke when it comes to serving pedestrians’ needs. Laughable by modern global city standards. The barren concrete sidewalks along these bridges, with noxious fumes and noises emanating from the incessant traffic below, are far from being pedestrian friendly and actually borderline pedestrian hostile, and as a result, completely impede urban connective tissue from ever forming. A cap park is in the works, thankfully.
Nevertheless, as a result of this egregious severance, Chinatown was held back from the urban renaissance that occurred over the last decade in the rest of Downtown LA to the south (including a now vibrant Little Tokyo). Fortunately, the stars may finally be aligning for this Asian historic district that dates back to 1938 with tons of potential as another great urban district of Downtown LA. Projects have broken ground (some of them detailed below) and some are waiting in the wings.
The most important development project that absolutely needs to happen in order to really push Chinatown forward is the proposed “Blossom Plaza” mixed-use project that would provide a seamless pedestrian connection between the Chinatown Gold Line station with the rest of Chinatown, which is now interrupted by a large empty lot, aka “deadzone.”
Chinatown Gateway Mixed-Use Project
Seen on the right, Equity Residential is developing a new 280-unit market rate mixed-use project called Chinatown Gateway (appropriately named because it literally sits next to the official gateway of Chinatown) has broken ground
This is a recent snap shot from last week of the large construction site of the Chinatown Gateway project
In addition to 280 new market rate apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail space will be added to Chinatown, which I hope will attract some of those great Chinese American businesses seen in the San Gabriel Valley
I hope many more pedestrians will walk past this bronze plaque welcoming visitors to Chinatown in the future as Downtown LA continues to strengthen its urban connections
Lotus Garden Affordable Housing Project
Affirmed Housing Group is constructing a 60-unit affordable housing project near the LA Public Library Chinatown Branch
(Click to enlarge) Lotus Garden is expected to be completed in the Spring of 2012 and will consist of two towers, one 7 stories tall and the other 9 stories tall
Blossom Plaza Mixed-Use Project
The Blossom Plaza project that is proposed for this parking lot next to the Gold Line station may be the most important catalytic project for Chinatown as it will likely funnel thousands of transit riders into the area, rejuvenating the streets and businesses and sparking economic growth
This is the vantage point from someone standing on the elevated Chinatown Gold Line station platform looking at a very unattractive eyesore of a surface parking lot. This view would be a lot more attractive when the Blossom Plaza is finished, providing a direct and easy connection from the station to Chinatown
This older rendering of Blossom Plaza shows an exciting mixed-use project with 262 apartments, 43,000 SF of retail, and an 18,000 SF Cultural Plaza (Photo: Urban Strategies)
Yale and Ord Park
A new .58 acre park will be built by the LA Library Chinatown Branch near Yale and Ord Streets, which according to the CRA, will have a playground, fitness zone, plaza and performing arts space, fitness trail, upper viewing terrace, and game tables. This hillside will also be incorporated into the park with new landscaping and pedestrian access from the library to the residential hillside