downtown los angeles, little tokyo
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Little Tokyo’s Brunswig Snags General Assembly, SpinFish in Downtown LA

On the left, Brunswig Square's most recent landlord, Jamestown, aims to bring in the new while respecting the cultural context of Little Tokyo

Remember when we ran our post last year asking the question: “Can Little Tokyo keep its Japanese flavor in Downtown LA?” As the urban revival continued both within and around Little Tokyo (especially the adjacent red hot Arts District), many worried, including myself, that Little Tokyo’s strong Japanese roots would be chipped away as one of the community’s most significant properties — the historic Brunswig Square at 2nd and Central — was kicking out its Japanese restaurants (i.e., Kokekokko) with plans to replace them with non-Asian concepts. The landlord GreenOak Real Estate Advisors had little regard for the community and basically wanted to turn Little Tokyo into the Arts District. Bad, bad move in my opinion. Well THANK GOODNESS GreenOak sold the property to Jamestown Properties who last year after reading our alarming piece reached out to me with the much appreciated intent to listen to my concerns about keeping Little Tokyo intact.

This week, I met with reps from Jamestown again who had exciting news to share with me and my readers. Three exciting recent developments happening at the Brunswig are proving that Jamestown is a responsible landlord who understands that you can upgrade your property without negatively impacting the fundamental cultural integrity of the community you’re in. Maintaining cultural authenticity does NOT necessarily mean you can’t bring in the “new” as many NIMBYs who fear change fail to understand. But understanding the positive attributes of the historical context could actually benefit you in the long run as a property owner. That’s something that Jamestown understands.

So here are three highlights I wanted to share with you.

  1. Izakaya restaurant, Ebisu, has RENEWED its lease with Jamestown. The 3,250 square foot restaurant’s lease term was expiring soon, and instead of trying to kick it out, the landlord worked with them to renew the lease allowing them to continue serving in Little Tokyo.
  2. The Hawaiian poke craze, which has strong Japanese and Asian influence, just seems to keep on going in Los Angeles. SpinFish Poke House, with locations in Pasadena and Santa Monica, will be taking over a 1,225 square foot space along 2nd Street opening in early 2017.
  3. And BIG NEWS here. Tech ed favorite, General Assembly, has signed a 10,150 square foot lease taking over almost the entire 4th floor office space of the eight-story Brunswig Square. General Assembly, which offers career training for the millennial generation geared toward the high-tech modern economy like web design and digital marketing, will relocate from its current temporary digs at The Reef.

Jamestown is actively in the midst of upgrading the Brunswig property from top to bottom. The entire lobby is undergoing a beautiful remodeling job changing out the flooring to white marble, highlighting the Art Deco features, and adding artistic touches like a new mural painting.

I really thank Jamestown for reaching out to me again and for being so transparent and engaging. I am now more optimistic that Little Tokyo will continue to be a thriving cultural asset highlighting the Japanese community that successfully balances the old with the new.

Ebisu, a Japanese yakitori restaurant, has renewed its lease with Jamestown allowing it to remain in Little Tokyo

Ebisu, a Japanese yakitori restaurant, has renewed its lease with Jamestown allowing it to remain in Little Tokyo

SpinFish Poke House from Pasadena will be opening in early 2017 (retail space on the left)

SpinFish Poke House from Pasadena will be opening in early 2017 (retail space on the left)

Tech ed campus, General Assembly, has leased over 10,000 SF taking over most of the 4th floor at the Brunswig

Tech ed campus, General Assembly, has leased over 10,000 SF taking over most of the 4th floor at the Brunswig

Brunswig Square is located in the heart of Little Tokyo at 2nd and Central

Brunswig Square is located in the heart of Little Tokyo at 2nd and Central

Views of the DTLA skyline from Brunswig are awesome to say the least

Views of the DTLA skyline from Brunswig are awesome to say the least

The lobby is being remodeled as part of Jamestown's upgrade to the Brunswig

The lobby is being remodeled as part of Jamestown’s upgrade to the Brunswig

5 Comments

  1. If you’re going to talk about keeping Little Tokyo “intact”, as you put it, it would be fair to at least acknowledge that Little Tokyo was a French/Mexican neighborhood first. (The “Brunswig” of Brunswig Square was a French druggist who built a pharmaceutical empire nearby and was VERY active in the community.)

    Why did a French neighborhood become Little Tokyo (and Chinatown)? The fact that LA’s historically French neighborhoods didn’t have racially restrictive covenants (none that I can find, anyway) probably had something to do with it.

    I’m all for keeping the unique character of individual neighborhoods, but let’s try to be objective about the fact that the area has always been diverse.

  2. sebstian says

    It would be nice if they removed the trees in the community and replaced them with Cherry Blossoms.

  3. mike says

    I can appreciate this buildings aesthetic form, but its color palette and facade materials are a disgrace to the Art Deco movement.

    That being said, I’m glad Jamestown is making an effort to perpetuate the areas Japanese heritage.

  4. Christopher Eaton says

    Honestly Brigham, I wish that you were a quarter concerned about the cultural and historical context of the Jewelry District, which skews both Persian and Latino. I echo your sentiment from this post, that you can bring in the new without compromising the integrity of the historical/cultural core of the neighborhood. LA is richer for both of these neighborhoods. I wish that both of them were getting the respect they deserve.

  5. Adam says

    Yes, I’m so upset that massage parlor (aka brothel) was kicked out of the retail at Brunswig Square by GreenOak. Big loss for the neighborhood

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