downtown los angeles, little tokyo

Rumors: Little Tokyo Office Depot Prepping for Redevelopment in Downtown LA

A suburban-style strip mall in the middle of Little Tokyo may be redeveloped in the next couple of years according to numerous sources

Okay, so this is both exciting and not surprising at the same time. The Office Depot strip mall in the middle of bustling Little Tokyo completed in 2001, also referred to by its lesser known name “The Shops at 2nd and Central,” may be redeveloped into something much more appropriate for its Regional Connector-adjacent location in the not-so-distant future.

I first heard about the rumors in January earlier this year, and now the cat is sort of coming out of the bag as I’ve been hearing about it more and more from various sources all over. Basically, it looks like the current tenants — Office Depot, Shin Sen Gumi, Starbucks, Yogurtland, etc — will have to leave in about “a couple of years” to make way for, presumably, a mixed-use project. (Side note: Shin Sen Gumi must remain in Little Tokyo in my opinion.) Calls and emails to the owner of the complex, Santa Monica-based Levy Affiliated, asking for more info have not been returned.

Given the amount of development and money pouring into the immediate area, it is actually somewhat surprising it’s taken this long to begin hearing about redevelopment plans for such an underutilized piece of property in such an amazing location. The large 2.2-acre site (with its 36,000 square foot strip mall and suburban-style surface parking lot) sits directly adjacent to what will become one of the busiest subway stations on the West Coast (transit-oriented), and faces the main pedestrian corridor along 2nd Street that links the Arts District with the rest of Downtown LA.

So far, there doesn’t seem to be any known definitive plans on what will happen to the property except that current tenants will likely vacate in a couple of years. I am hoping that whoever does end up redeveloping the site (could the property be sold to Chinese developers like so many in downtown?), that they focus on adding back the same amount of retail space, if not more, instead of shrinking it down to a few thousand square feet like so many mixed-use projects in Downtown LA. Washington DC’s 890,000 square foot retail project in Columbia Heights, D.C. USA, comes to mind as an urban retail format that I would love to see built here in Little Tokyo (perhaps a smaller version), if not somewhere else in Downtown LA (Mitsui Fudosan’s 8th/Fig?) as we are starved of so many basic retail options other cities take for granted.

The Shops at 2nd and Central Today

The Shops at 2nd and Central owned by Santa Monica-based Levy Affiliated may be asked to vacate in the next couple of years according to numerous sources

The Shops at 2nd and Central owned by Santa Monica-based Levy Affiliated may be asked to vacate in the next couple of years according to numerous sources

Underutilized property: The 2.2 acre site, with its strip mall and suburban-style parking lot, faces the main pedestrian corridor along 2nd Street that links to the Arts District to the east

Underutilized property: The 2.2 acre site, with its strip mall and suburban-style parking lot, faces the main pedestrian corridor along 2nd Street that links to the Arts District to the east

The Shops at 2nd and Central sits directly adjacent to the Regional Connector subway station (big hole in ground) under construction slated for completion in 2021

The Shops at 2nd and Central sits directly adjacent to the Regional Connector subway station (big hole in ground) under construction slated for completion in 2021

Transit-oriented: Another view of the Regional Connector subway station under construction, a tremendous opportunity for redevelopment on the adjacent lot into a higher density retail, mixed-use project

Transit-oriented: Another view of the Regional Connector subway station under construction, a tremendous opportunity for redevelopment on the adjacent lot into a higher density retail, mixed-use project

Future Model? D.C. USA Urban Retail Project in Columbia Heights

D.C. USA is an 890,000 square foot retail project, adjacent to the Yellow and Green DC metro lines, that I would love to see built here in Downtown LA (Photo: John DeFerrari of Streets of Washington)

D.C. USA is an 890,000 square foot retail project, adjacent to the Yellow and Green DC metro lines, that I would love to see built here in Downtown LA (Photo: John DeFerrari of Streets of Washington)

22 Comments

  1. Aaron Bateman (@schizrade) says

    First thought: I LOVE Oystars. You gotta eat there. It is awesome.

    Second thought: Shin Sen Gumi should relocate to Brunswick across the street, or into the new buildings up on San Pedro. They are also awesome.

    Third thought: I know from talking to a starbucks employee at that location I am close to that there is a new sbux opening at 2nd & San Pedro, and she thinks they may vacate this one. She personally is going to be working at the new location.

  2. I am really inspired with your vision to see a similar “DC USA” project developed at the “Office Depot” site! It’s proximity to the new Regional Connector Station, Little Tokyo, and the Arts District make for good retail chemistry! 2nd St. in Little Tokyo is such a popular destination for dining and shopping! Kudo’s to Levy Affiliated of Santa Monica who share a vision to serve the DTLA community!

  3. Nellie says

    I hope whatever mixed use gets put in there will not look as architecturally bland as the DC project. When I used to visit Little Tokyo, I always thought the repetition of the shape of those exact buildings looked eye-catching, but its overall use and vibrance underwhelming. I think incorporating the existing exterior shell into the overall design by putting a tall adjoining structure on top of and slightly set back from it would keep it visually interesting- a design strategy often used when incorporating historic brick buildings. In this case, the arch is not historic, but perhaps memorable in locals’ minds. If they do tear it all down, I hope they do something exciting design-wise to replace it.

    • Funny enough, most of the buildings in Tokyo are pretty boxy and look somewhat like the DC USA project, except with lots of cool flashy blade signs. For me, design is obviously important, but functionality is even more important than aesthetics to me. I often think of Taipei, Taiwan, which is an amazing city if you’ve been before (best subway system ever), but the city looks totally bland. But you end up loving it because it functions so well. It’s so lively and vibrant and easy to get around. With all that said, I agree that we should have good looking buildings in DTLA!

  4. John G. says

    Nothing less than 8 stories need to be built here. That’s right, no stumpies. Time to break the mold. If they go wood and stucco (which also wouldn’t be surprising) then they will only repeat the same mistake (short-sighted thinking) when they built that Office Depot building and parking lot. For this location, developers need to keep the future density in mind…

  5. Christopher Mamian says

    Please, please, please. Build dense, and beautifully. This is a wonderful parcel of land sitting between two of the best parts of downtown. I really would love to see something beautiful here!

    • Agreed! I also hope the developer does NOT ignore Alameda by putting up a blank wall again like the 8th/Grand Whole Foods project, which addressed Grand Ave nicely, but completely ignored Olive leaving no room for pedestrian street-level activation. #smh

      • Allen Kirkland says

        I totally agree with you on this one! What a shame that olive street got nothing, even 8th st should have got something better

  6. Jimmy Pham says

    Go vertical!! Yes and bring in LOTS of shops and stores so transit riders can shop easily and take the subway home.

  7. sebstian says

    They should definitely give it a Tokyo Vibe since it’s little Tokyo.

    • Except, It’s name by Little Tokyo only because all the Japanese shops either moved to Torrance or Sawtelle.

  8. sigaba says

    Is Metro leasing airspace over these stations? Seems like, if you were putting something on this block…

    • John G. says

      It’s being leased as “good will”‘ for the NIMBYs who don’t like tall buildings in this area. Hence, no push to allowing zoning for taller and dense buildings here.

  9. corner soul says

    Ugh, why on earth would you want another mall downtown?

    Last thing our regional economy needs is more corporate chains that pay poverty wages, outsource production to sweatshops, and dodge taxes. The extraction economy is nothing to be cheerleading about.

    We should be encouraging small businesses and local entrepreneurs… keep the velocity of wealth local.

    • John G. says

      Generally agree but you’re obviously not a small business owner or entrepreneur are you? I operate a small business and it’s not easy to get reasonable profit margins when rental space (think lease rates) and labor laws (think increasing minimum wages) make it financially difficult. You need to start thinking like a small business and the financial details involved before you go off spewing discontent for big corporate chains. The same people wanting “social justice” are some of the reasons why we are seeing more of chain stores. Small business owners can’t thrive in an unfriendly bureaucratic anti-business state like California.

      • I have to disagree with corner soul. I think a successful urban city center that’s convenient, practical, and livable must have a balance of both indie shops and chains — both low and high priced stores — that provide diverse options for everyone. Not opening “Best Buy” or “TJ Maxx” or any other large chain in DTLA won’t prevent me from leaving downtown and shopping in ANOTHER community to get what I need. It is naive and ignorant to blame large chains for the “social inequities” you find indignant. Technological advancement, including transportation and communication, expedited capitalism, and those chains you despise are just byproducts of that technology that furthers globalism. Perhaps you should cheerlead the PEAK OIL phenomenon, which would slowly destroy the current economic growth model dependent on oil by making energy more and more expensive. That would really reign in the mighty chains and force mom and pop to start selling those Samsung 4K TVs!

        • corner soul says

          @Brigham Yen I don’t blame large corporations for trying to make a buck, I blame our political and economic institutions for rigging the game in their favor. Globalization, automation and corporatism are gonna bite us all in the ass the sooner or later, mark my words.

          Anyway, I’ll stop myself before I end up on a rant… I enjoy your blog, and I think we probably agree on more than we disagree with regards to LA’s urban revival. Didn’t mean to kick the hornet’s nest :)

        • Allen Kirkland says

          By the way doesn’t our Mayor look like the guy in Modern Family?

      • corner soul says

        I am a small biz owner, and I agree with you to a large extent.

        City of LA (and CA in general) is very unfair to the little guy. I dunno that I’d blame minimum wage, as much as exclusionary zoning and red tape (drives property values up by making it impossible to build anything without spending years on soft costs.)

        The problem is big biz and big government have colluded to rig the game in favor of those with deep pockets (too much red tape and taxes on the little guy; too many loopholes and subsidies for big corporations.)

        It’s crony capitalism, and both sides of the political aisle are to blame… although yeah, Democrats are running the show locally, so liberals (myself included) need to take a long hard look in the mirror.

        • One of the worst requirements by the City in my opinion is mandated parking for businesses in Downtown LA. For example, if you alter a space from designated basement to designated office, the City will then require parking for the change. If you are not able to provide the parking because, well, there’s no space to build that parking, then you cannot build out an office legally in the City’s eyes. Not only does that requirement impede business, but it’s ridiculous and incredibly counterproductive for a fledgling URBAN CENTER trying to be a real urban center that promotes walking, biking, and taking public transit. The City should be supporting business growth downtown (less red tape) and get rid of the parking requirement and let the business decide whether or not they need it.

  10. Chris De Pretis says

    Develop away — the more dense the better for this lot right there by the Metro.

Comments are closed.