In October 2014, the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) proudly announced that it had crossed the 50% threshold in its $23 million fundraising campaign to build the Budokan of Los Angeles. The proposed recreation center, a longtime goal of many community stakeholders, would replace a surface parking lot at 229-49 S. Los Angeles Street. Now, in an article published by the Rafu Shimpo, LTSC has unveiled a new look for the project designed by local architecture firm Gruen Associates.
The proposed three-story edifice--named for Tokyo's famous Nippon Budokan--would feature two full-size basketball courts, meeting rooms, a kitchen and landscaped rooftop terraces. A one-level garage would sit beneath the 44,000-square-foot building, offering parking accommodations for up to 64 vehicles. LTSC expects multiple uses for the facility, including after-school programs, martial arts tournaments, basketball and volleyball.
According to elevation plans contained within a presentation to the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council's Planning and Land Use Committee, the Budokan will feature a variety of high-quality finishes. Exterior materials would consist primarily of glass and yellow-tinged aluminum panels. The building's two rooftop terraces, tailored to comply with local design standards, would provide publicly accessible green space and outdoor seating.
The modern design from Gruen Associates forges a stark contrast to an earlier vision for the project. LTSC's first proposal was designed by Hayahiko Takase, a prominent local figure who previously worked with renowned modernist architect Minoru Yamasaki. Takase has designed several Little Tokyo landmarks, including Higashi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, the Kajima Building and the DoubleTree Hotel (formerly known as the Kyoto Grand and the New Otani). His original plan for the Budokan had called for a more traditional Japanese-themed structure, containing four basketball courts and a rooftop jogging track.
The Budokan, scheduled to break ground in 2016, is one of several large-scale developments slated for Little Tokyo's western perimeter. Malibu-based Weintraub Real Estate Group is planning a seven-story, 236-unit residential project on a property which abuts the Budokan site. Directly across Los Angeles Street, developer Avalon Bay recently completed a similar mixed-used complex. These projects have quickly transformed what was once a sad collection of surface parking lots and decrepit low-rise buildings into a more cohesive urban setting.