A presentation to the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission offers a first look at plans to redevelop the property surrounding the former Santa Monica Nikkei Hall with affordable housing.

The shuttered community center, located at 1413 Michigan Avenue, was designated as a Santa Monica landmark in 2018.  EAH Housing, the developer behind the project, is seeking approvals to build a four-story structure on the site featuring 58 apartments - including 57 affordable units - with 12 parking spaces and ground-floor amenities.

KFA Architecture is designing the proposed development, which would also involve the preservation of the community center's social hall and residence building - a 1950s structure which was designated a Santa Monica landmark in 2018.  The new construction would have an exterior of plaster and cement shingles, with a series of setbacks used to create amenity decks for residents.

In addition to preserving a portion of Nikkei Hall, the project - which has been named the Laurel - would also include a commemorative plaque acknowledging the history of the property.  Additionally, the project team has considered other ways to reference Santa Monica's Japanese community - including a restoration of the center's former garden.

“I think the Japanese community center will get more of the attention it deserves with a larger building surrounding it, rather in the middle of a parking lot," said Livia Cavallo, Lead Designer at KFA.

Santa Monica Nikkei Hall was established on the property in the 1940s following the return of Japanese Americans to Southern California after World War II.  The center operated for more than 60 years, eventually closing its doors in the early 2000s as Santa Monica's Japanese population dispersed to other parts of the region.

The Laurel would join several similar affordable housing projects from Community Corp. of Santa Monica now in the works for the surrounding Pico neighborhood - including a project now under construction on 14th Street.

This is EAH Housing's second Santa Monica project, following the Magnolia Villas senior housing development now under construction near the intersection of 10th and Broadway.

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