The once bustling and vibrant Peace Plaza in San Francisco’s Japantown will finally see a significant improvement thanks to an additional $6 million in funding from the state. The San Francisco Standard reported that the new projected total amount of the renovation is $33.5 million.
Earlier this week, Assemblyman Phil Ting announced that efforts are made so that the construction project will see completion as soon as possible.
According to KTVU News, Ting stated that the renovation of Peace Plaza is a way to make amends to the Japanese American community. Many Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from the San Francisco neighborhood during the country’s dark and painful past. Most notable of these mass evictions occurred during the World War II incarceration, and again in the 1960s.
“This isn’t just about modernizing a public space,” Ting said. “It’s also about making amends to Japanese Americans who were forced out of Japantown not once, but twice. The state should be a partner in these efforts to make things right, and I was determined to fight for this funding.”
Peace Plaza boasts a courtyard with a striking, five-tiered Peace Pagoda. Much like the Statue of Liberty became the symbol of friendship between the United States and France, the Peace Pagoda holds the same sentiment between Japan and the United States.
“This is the heart of our Japanese American community here in San Francisco,” Ting said. “Unfortunately, this plaza is a symbol of what was lost, but the rest of the community that remains is still here as a symbol of what stayed,” Ting added, per The San Francisco Standard.
Speaking with local news outlet KRON4, Richard Hashimoto, the co-chair of the Peace Plaza Committee, expressed the personal significance of Peace Plaza and the renovation project.
“In the late 1960s, my family became victims of the mass redevelopment of Japantown,” Hashimoto said. “The city exercised eminent domain powers to force us out. All of the families we grew up with moved to other parts of the city or left San Francisco, and Japantown would never again be the friendly, family-oriented community I grew up in,” he added.
Before the rise of multiplex theaters and the slow decline of tourists in the community, events like the annual Cherry Blossom Festival were regularly hosted in the area. It has been more than 20 years since the last renovation or upgrade of the plaza.
In a press release from Ting’s office, it was stated that he hopes the incoming improvements will attract more visitors to the area. This move will hopefully give small businesses a chance to showcase their goods and services to an even bigger public. He also aims to foster community and cultural relations in Japantown.
The construction will include waterproofing and paving improvements in the plaza. Ting said the project will also include “beautifying the space with plants, lighting and seating so it can serve as an essential location for festivals, celebrations and historic commemorations.”
A video animation of the projected completed design of the plaza shows the addition of cherry trees and a reflecting pool and the removal of walls and railings obstructing pathways within the plaza.
The design planning stage of the renovation is still underway, and it is expected that the construction of Peace Plaza will begin in early 2024.
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