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Johnson Fain, the architecture firm behind several of the newest buildings in Downtown Los Angeles, is now looking to become a more direct participant in the development process.

Earlier this week, the Downtown-based firm filed plans with the City of Los Angeles to demolish its longtime Chinatown headquarters and replace it with a mixed-use complex.  The proposed development at 1201 N. Broadway would consist of a podium-style building containing 124 residential units, 8,700 square feet of ground-floor retail space and underground parking.

Johnson Fain co-founder and partner Scott Johnson described the plan as being in its earliest stages.  Following the adoption of the Cornfield Arroyo Specific Plan, Johnson said that his firm has been approached by many nearby property owners regarding the buildable potential for their land.

After observing the interest of others, Johnson and the firm recognized that their home base was a potentially viable development site, with close proximity to both Los Angeles State Historic Park and the Gold Line's Chinatown Station.  Johnson Fain then set out to entitle the .7-acre site for a by-right development, fully compliant with the specific plan.

The property offers a smaller canvas than Johnson Fain has grown accustomed to with their other Downtown projects, best exemplified by Blossom Plaza and La Plaza Cultura Village.  Both of those multi-acre sites allowed for pedestrian paseos lined by retail and restaurant space.

The office also sits directly across the street from the slender eight-acre property where the family behind the San Antonio Winery recently announced plans to develop a mixed-use development with up to 920 residential units and commercial space.  Although that project, like Johnson Fain's, remains in the early planning stages, the two developments could combine to facilitate a northern extension of Chinatown's main commercial artery.

Moving forward, Johnson said that the project will spend the next year navigating the entitlement process. with construction documents to be generated after that point.  Noting that Johnson Fain is an architecture firm rather than a developer, he stated that the project could be built as a co-venture with a real estate firm.  A decision on how to proceed will not be made until 2018.

As to the future home of Johnson Fain, should the development come to fruition, Johnson stated that the firm intends to remain in Chinatown.  However, an exact location will be determined at a future date.

1201 N. Broadway (Image: Google Street View)
1201 N. Broadway (Image: Google Maps)

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