[LA Downtown News] Development, Food and the Future of Little Tokyo: A Historic Neighborhood Wrestles With Change and ‘Growth’

From the LA Downtown News - Eddie Kim

Photo of Suehiro, by Eddie Kim

Photo of Suehiro, by Eddie Kim

"Little Tokyo remains studded with unpretentious gems that attract a wide demographic of eaters and shoppers. A tight-knit community of longtime residents, business owners and advocates, however, see a more uncertain future.

The Regional Connector is both blessing and curse, they say — an economic boon that also slaps a bull’s-eye on the nine-block neighborhood, priming it for “growth,” that word used to justify all kinds of development.

“There has been a recurring theme of displacement in Little Tokyo’s history, from the internment camps of WWII to civic expansion with the construction of Parker Center destroying 25% of the community,” says Takao Suzuki, who oversees economic development for the Little Tokyo Service Center, a community-building nonprofit. “With the Japanese yen boom in the 1980s, there was more property trading hands, and that’s happening again, with speculation due to the Regional Connector.”

The only guaranteed way to control your destiny as a small business owner is to own property rather than rent. That’s wishful thinking for most, even legacy names like Brian Kito, the third-generation owner of First Street confectionary shop Fugetsu-Do.

“Metro is partly to blame for the property prices increasing, but even if they stabilize, areas around the station are going to stay expensive,” Kito says. “We don’t know what the next five years will bring. Not because we don’t know what Metro is doing — it’s more about how the station effects what gets created next.” "

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