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'Tonight is a Night of Celebration' says Nikkei Center Partnership

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, November 19, 2008, at 11:21AM
Bill Watanabe Ed Fuentes

Bill Watanabe, Executive Director of the Little Tokyo Service Center, speaks to the gathered crowd.

This current pesky little economic crisis didn’t keep development partners from hosting a celebration for the Nikkei Center, which they regard the most ambitious project in Little Tokyo’s history.

That spirit set the tone for Tuesday night’s reception at the Japanese American National Museum. Not quite a pre-groundbreaking, the networking social rally was held to assure the community that the Nikkei Center is moving forward. It gave partners a chance to continue their commitment to community outreach -- including to the Arts District -- that has been a characteristic of the project's initial planning stages.

The 1st and Alameda site will someday hold 390 residential rental units, 80,000 square feet of retail, and 166,500 square feet of office space next the Gold Line extension. Planners feel that the project will make Little Tokyo a cultural gateway to Los Angeles and a place for all Japanese-Americans to consider home.

With the introduction of the Nikkei Center first stage fund’s goal of $150 Million, the call begins for Japanese and Japanese-American investors to regard Little Tokyo as their neighborhood as well.

As for potential power tenants, a gasp from the audience came when Consul General Junichi Ihara told the crowd “In my heart, my dream is the Consulate General (of Japan in Los Angeles) comes back to Little Tokyo.”

Big ideas like that will be needed to keep the project moving forward through a national economic downfall. Multiple speakers noted Little Tokyo’s history of overcoming social and economic adversity.

In this case, Little Tokyo’s ongoing challenge to preserve its past is joined by a challenge to preserve the just awarded plans for a future.

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