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Japanese Village Plaza Reopens As Community Gathering Spot

By Rich Alossi
Published: Tuesday, August 17, 2010, at 10:52AM
Japanese Village Plaza Rich Alossi

Pedestrians wander through the newly renovated Japanese Village Plaza, which held a reopening ceremony over the weekend.

Finishing touches on the two-year-long renovation of Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo wrapped up this weekend with a grand reopening ceremony and events to coincide with start of the the 70th Annual Nisei Week festival.

Quickly following the 2007 purchase of the plaza by non-Japanese investment group American Commercial Equities, the company announced plans to renovate the property, which had seen few improvements since its inception in the mid-1980s. That announcement caused a stir in the Little Tokyo community, itself the subject of a well-documented influx of new development and changing demographics.

Still, those fears were mostly allayed when the company told stakeholders that improvements would not change the overall character or Japanese heritage of the plaza. A roof replacement project kicked off the renovations back in 2008, which also saw the installation of new signage, trees, improved lighting, giant umbrellas to provide shade and abundant seating throughout the popular tourist destination. In a nod to the improving pedestrian environment Downtown, a new retail space is available for lease on the plaza's formerly neglected northeast corner at First Street and Central Avenue.

The most eye-catching change, however, is the new Yagura fire tower. One of Little Tokyo's most photogenic and popular monuments, the tower marks the First Street entrance to the plaza. Termite damage necessitated the replacement of the wooden multistory structure with a long-lasting steel tower.

On Monday, workers in the basket of a cherry-picker were carefully laying the last of the new roof tiles on the tower as a few tourists and elderly neighborhood residents took advantage of new benches in the shade nearby. And with a central terrace more conducive to small performances, Japanese Village Plaza has cemented its footing as the center of neighborhood life in Little Tokyo once more.

What do you think about the newly renovated plaza? Let us know in the comments. / 335 E. 2nd Street


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