chinatown, downtown los angeles

Next Up: Urban Renaissance for Chinatown LA

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


  1. This is SUPER exciting. I hate having to discourage people from going to Chinatown whenever I rave about downtown. Do you know if there’s been any progress on the Park 101 project?

  2. I’m glad you mention El Pueblo as well. As someone who lives across the street, I know there is a lot of activity there (on the weekends especially) but that it is extremely disconnected from the rest of Downtown.

    The buildings have been very well preserved and renovated and are beautiful at night, but the area is dead during that time. I remember hearing about the city (or someone) putting out an RFP for activating some of the buildings there and I think this would be a GREAT spot for some restaurants with outdoor seating, etc.

  3. Vicki Wilson says

    This sounds really cool! I haven’t visit the place yet but love to visit it soon. Thanks for this great information on what’s happening downtown. :)

  4. Sherman says

    I’m super excited about the Chinatown developments. I would love to see LA Chinatown become something like San Francisco Chinatown, a bustling district attracting throngs of visitors! That would be amazing.

  5. Colima Mexican Mestaurant on Cesar Chavez/Broadway, across from the future Chinatown Gateway Project, has really great burritos. I like to go there for a quick bite before I hike up the hill to catch a show at the Ahmanson or Mark Taper.

  6. Wal-Mart? in China Town? How could we have let this happen. The unique and most graceful thing about China Town is (was) it’s many many “Mom *& Pop store fronts! When you put a Wal-Mart in that “mix” all those entrepreneurs jobs will vanish! Then all of that “UNIQUENESS” will be lost forever. What have we become that we let a HUGE, Worthless group of $BILLIONARES destroy the hopes and dreams of our culture? What’s next? “Robot people” to shop for us? then we can just go to work and send our Pay-check to Wall Street. Can we still do something to STOP Wal-Mart?

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