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.
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.
There’s no question that Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing a massive revival right now. Dozens of cranes dot the skyline, streets are often closed for utility relocation and the constant drone of construction echoes between skyscrapers. It’s not uncommon to walk past through some historic buildings and suddenly find yourself at the feet of a brand new apartment tower, complete with its glass balconies, indoor fitness center, and even a Philz coffee shop. While the revitalization is definitely a boon for Downtown Los Angeles, some more established neighborhoods within downtown like Little Tokyo have begun to worry as familiar cityscapes transform at a rate never seen before.
Another reason to head over to the Little Tokyo Galleria at 3rd/Alameda, which is going from a once completely dead mall to a fun and interesting spot to visit again for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Adding to that is a brand new Daiso Japan store that opened this past weekend on the first floor of the 3-story shopping center. At 8,300 square feet large, it’s packed with just about everything you can imagine! For those unfamiliar with Daiso, it’s basically like a Japanese version of LA’s 99 Cents Only store except most items are $1.50 at Daiso. And pretty much all the products in the store are also “Daiso branded,” which includes just about everything you can think of from common household items to office and school supplies, stuff for the bathroom and kitchen, products for pets, handy storage containers, holiday decorations, to useful electronic items like mini USB cables. Oh yeah, and there’s also a pretty sizeable snack section stocked with Asian goodies.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will join ULI Los Angeles, a District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), for Transit Oriented L.A., a long-anticipated summit exploring how to dramatically improve transportation corridors. With interactive panel presentations from nationally recognized speakers, Transit Oriented L.A. – or ToLA– will expand the traditional emphasis on individual transit stations to a bold transformation of corridors to achieve a truly transit-oriented Los Angeles.
ToLA is Thursday, October 10, 2013, 7:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, 90012.
In a city as large and diverse as Los Angeles where there are as many creative oriented jobs (i.e., free lancers, entertainment, fashion, graphic design, etc.) as there are corporate ones, co-working spaces are becoming the hottest new trend in spicing up the self-employed work environment. Instead of just heading over to the local Starbucks for the usual limited Internet access and fighting for a dearth of available work space, many are forking over a monthly fee to work from co-working spaces that are as much about networking as they are about having your own comfy desk. Creative tech hubs like New York and San Francisco have seen their own share of uber-trendy co-working spaces like WeWork where private desks can run $700 a month. Downtown LA, also a creative hub, is no exception with co-working spaces popping up in the Historic Core and Arts District, and now the newest one called Opodz just launched last week in the heart of Little Tokyo.
Located prominently at the corner of 1st Street and Central Avenue in Little Tokyo, “Fickle” by Chef James Ta is somewhat of a hidden culinary destination. By day, Fickle’s restaurant space operates as its alter ego “The Sandwich Smith,” specializing in gourmet sandwiches featuring farm fresh ingredients in a casual setting at accessible prices. Once the sun sets however, candles take over the dining room, sandwiches become a distant memory, and the Fickle menu, featuring a who’s who of high quality dishes and flavors takes center stage. True to its namesake and Chef Ta’s mission, Fickle’s menu adjusts frequently to ensure that only the freshest ingredients are used.
A new seafood spot called Spicy Crab Shack is now open at the Weller Court in Little Tokyo near 2nd and San Pedro. The owner, Kayline Lee, explains that her concept is similar to restaurants like The Boiling Crab where diners order seafood and get a real “hands on” experience (their motto is “Let’s Get Your Hand Saucy!”) while chowing down on “the freshest seafood,” which includes at the Spicy Crab Shack, fresh premium jumbo shrimp, live Dungeness crab, lobsters, and crawfish.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas P. Cox who is the CEO of TCA Architects (formerly Thomas P. Cox Architects, Inc.). I met him and his colleagues at their Downtown LA corporate office located on the 10th floor of the Chase Plaza tower with stunning skyline views of Downtown LA. It was the perfect setting and vantage point to sit down and talk about how TCA views urbanism and the future of Downtown LA, and more importantly, how have they been directly involved with the revitalization process.
Last summer, we reported that Downtown LA’s first Tom N Toms Coffee — basically Korea’s version of Starbucks with now about a dozen locations in the LA metro — was coming to the Little Tokyo Shopping Center (home to the gigantic Korean supermarket Woori Market). Now open for less than a month, Tom N Toms Coffee adds another solid tenant to the aging indoor shopping center, which has been going through some much needed upgrades over the past couple of years. (A new X-Lanes entertainment bowling alley — think Lucky Strike — is coming soon as well to the third floor.)
This summer, one of the most highly visible corners in Little Tokyo was finally leased to a new “dual restaurant” concept in the Japanese Village Plaza at First and Central (across from the Japanese American National Museum). The new upscale casual eatery is divided into two concepts under one roof: one called Fickle and the other called The Sandwich Smith (both websites are currently offline as of today).
It’s no secret that the Little Tokyo Shopping Center on the corner of 3rd and Alameda is something of a fortress. Much like Macy’s Plaza in the Financial District (downtown’s other “indoor mall”), Little Tokyo Shopping Center is a throwback to a different era. Its harsh grey concrete walls turn their back to the streets and its windowless exterior remains hostile to pedestrians who attempt to engage it from anywhere outside of its adjoining parking structure.
What: Some of the most popular Japanese restaurants are coming together for this summer’s last major event! Come and enjoy the UMAI (“Delicious”) dishes prepared by all nine restaurants.
When: Sunday, September 16, 2012
Where: Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo Downtown LA
Tickets: Ticket includes trying all nine restaurants and admission into the museum. Click here to purchase discounted advanced tickets.
For more details, visit www.umai2012.com
Last month, ‘lette — famous for their French macarons — closed down their location in the Little Tokyo Shopping Center at 3rd and Alameda (also home of Woori Market). Luckily, the LA-based pastry shop (originally from Beverly Hills) won’t be ditching Little Tokyo permanently, but instead will just be relocating to a much more central location at the Japanese Village Plaza, which has become one of Downtown LA’s most popular destinations after it received a successful renovation back in summer 2010.