By Alan Oda
A long-awaited housing project in Little Tokyo is closer to reality. The “Go For Broke” Apartments, a proposed 220 unit complex will offer affordable and permanent supportive housing, including space for homeless veterans. The building will be constructed at the site of the present Go For Broke monument, a black marble marker now surrounded by a parking lot on Temple Street, honoring Japanese Americans who fought in World War II.
“This project is probably the last remaining large tract of undeveloped land in Little Tokyo,” said Bill Watanabe, President of the Board of Directors for the Little Tokyo Service Center(LTSC). “It means the project will reflect the needs and direction of the Little Tokyo community as well as provide for much-needed affordable housing.”
The original proposal called for 70 units. The current effort is to triple the number of units plus provide space for merchants on the first floor.
The project is a partnership of the LTSC and the Go For Broke National Education Center.
“We saw this as an opportunity for both providing affordable housing and to protect legacy businesses,” said Takao Suzuki, LTSC Director of Community Development. “We’ll be providing housing for 300 residents into the neighborhood, save small businesses by charging below-market rates and keep businesses in Little Tokyo, and better highlight the Go For Broke monument.”
The project has cleared zoning and environmental issues and has received a preliminary recommendation from the Los Angeles Housing Department for a funding award. Suzuki said although there are some hurdles involving design and permits, the biggest obstacle is raising enough funds.
“We need to secure at least $100 million for the project, we still have about 80 percent that still needs to be raised,” he said.
With the city of Los Angeles committing funds, the next step is to seek grants, donations, and tax credits.
“To reiterate, right now the area is an underused parking lot. We think this project will bring vibrancy to Little Tokyo for both residents and local businesses,” said Suzuki.
The Go For Broke National Education Center was founded in 1989 to honor World War II American veterans of Japanese ancestry. The Center’s name is derived from the motto “go for broke” of the historic 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a team that risked all to defeat the Germans in Europe and challenge racial prejudice back at home.
LTSC was founded in 1979 and incorporated in 1980 as a multipurpose social service center serving the Little Tokyo community and the broader Southern California Japanese American community. The project reflects LTSC’s commitment to housing for low-income residents who were being evicted from their residences by private developers. The Community Development arm of LTSC was formed in 1994.
The Go for Broke Housing project is considered a needed boost for Little Tokyo, one of three remaining Japantowns in the U.S., all facing pressure from developers and gentrification.
“For the last 20 years, there has been lots of displacement of Little Tokyo’s small businesses due to significant rent increases, plus the Go For Broke monument is in the middle of a parking lot. This project will make this monument the center and highlight of this project,” Suzuki said.
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