Currently under construction and formerly known as the “Chinatown Gateway” (a name derived from its location adjacent to the double dragon gateway on Broadway and Cesar Chavez), the new name for Chinatown’s first market-rate housing complex is now called “Jia Apartments,” which means “home” in Chinese. The 280-unit mixed-use development, being developed by Equity Residential and designed by Downtown LA-based Thomas Cox Architects (TCA), topped out earlier this week at six floors with a projected opening date later this year.
When completed, the Jia Apartments will set an auspicious new direction for Chinatown, which has not seen the kind of redevelopment activity experienced elsewhere in Downtown LA. However, with 17,000 square feet of retail space (mostly along Broadway) and hundreds of new residents (in studios, one, and two-bedroom units), Jia could play a major role injecting life back into Chinatown even after dark when the many souvenir shops close down. I would like to see Chinatown follow the same successful path as Little Tokyo — now active day and night with interesting shops and restaurants — by attracting new investments, especially if you consider the amount of potential Chinese and Chinese American businesses from the San Gabriel Valley that could “come back” and transform Chinatown with activity 24-7. Perhaps we could eventually see a 99 Ranch Market return to Chinatown one day?
And up until now, the twin golden dragons that guard the archway to LA’s Chinatown (erected in 2001) seemed sadly incomplete as only one side of the gateway actually had a building next to it (the 16-story Cathay Manor senior housing tower). Now with Jia Apartments rising across the street on a site that used to be a desolate asphalt surface parking lot, the gateway itself also feels much more complete and adds toward Chinatown’s urban maturity.
It will be exciting to find out over the next few months what new businesses will be coming into Jia’s retail spaces. Rumor has it that Starbucks is looking to take the corner space along Cesar Chavez, which had already been designated for a cafe in the building’s renderings.