At a community meeting last week, four developers pitches plans for a Metro-owned property above the under-construction 1st/Central subway station in Little Tokyo.

Though the station site is 1.2 acres, the property only offers a 14,500-square-foot building pad due to the diagonal orientation of the 1st/Central station box.  An opportunity overview released last year by Metro indicates that the site could be appropriate for housing and commercial uses, with minimum building heights of three stories and a maximum floor area ration of 8:1.

Metro released a request for qualifications to prospective developers in August 2018, and received eight responses by January 2019.  That initial list has been whittled down to four teams, which are led by:


LTSC, an affordable housing developer and service provider, is currently working on multiple affordable housing developments in Little Tokyo, as well as the Terasaki Budokan community center.  The non-profit is also developing a mixed-use affordable project above the Vermont/Santa Monica subway station in East Hollywood.

At 1st/Central Station LTSC has teamed with FSY Architects, Morena Strategies, and Fehr & Peers to propose a five-story edifice which would feature shops, restaurants, community space, and automated parking.

Renderings depict a contemporary low-rise structure with a large plaza and transit-accessory uses.

Centre Urban Real Estate Partners

Centre Urban Real Estate Partners leads a team consisting of design firms Stantec and Kritzinger & Rao, complemented by Cumming Corporation.

Their proposal calls for a similar five-story edifice featuring an 18,000-square-foot food hall, independent shops 20,000 square feet of office space, a destination rent, a plaza, and other commercial uses.

Kaji & Associates

Torrance-based Kaji & Associates has pitched the most ambitious project of the four short-listed respondents.  Kaji's team - consisting of including architecture firms Kengo Kuma & Associates and Gruen Associates, along with Murakawa Communications, Webcor Construction, and real estate advisory firm Avison Young - has proposed a 17-story high-rise building called Ekibashi - meaning "Station Bridge" in Japanese.

The $155-million project, designed by Kuma, would include a 180-room boutique hotel on its upper floors, with a three-level podium dedicated to artist gallery space and retail.  Plans call for commercial condominiums which would be offered for sale to Little Tokyo legacy businesses. 

Ekibashi Station would be privately financed, with a first round of equity offered to local Japanese American investors.

Innovative Housing Opportunities

The fourth team, leady by Innovative Housing Opportunities, is called Lotus @ 1st.  Plans call for the construction of a seven-story edifice which would include affordable housing, commercial retail and restaurant space, two floors of galleries, and a public plaza.

Dahlin is designing the contemporary mid-rise structure.

Moving forward, Metro staff anticipates recommending a development team to the Metro Board of Directors in early 2020.  Following the approval of an exclusive negotiation agreement, the selected developer would engage in further community outreach.