San Francisco Japantown's seen a lot in the last 100 years -- from the influx of Japanese-American immigrants after the 1906 earthquake and the development of an ethnic community, to its forced displacement to internment camps in World War II, and a controversial redevelopment scheme to welcome them back, at the expense of the African-Americans who'd moved into the area in the meantime. And now, over this backdrop of repeated economic emigration, you can get udon, a shiatsu massage, and crepes!
As J-Town's centennial celebration gets underway, a new phase of redevelopment is emerging -- the Osaka-based owners of the Kintetsu Mall have announced that they've put the building on the market. They own not only the Kintetsu section of the mall (the one with Benihana in it) but also the Miyako Mall (the one with the bridge), the Radisson, and the Best Western up the street. And FYI, the Kabuki Theater is also up for sale, but in a separate transaction through AMC. The Kinokuniya building (with Sophie's Crepes and the awesome Kinokuniya stationery store) is under separate ownership (by the eponymous bookstore) and is not for sale -- or at least not yet.
At a community meeting last night, the local attorneys representing the Kintetsu owners pledged that they would work with Osaka HQ to ensure that any sale would be made to a buyer who would recognize the historic and cultural value of the space, and Gavin Newsom and Ross Mirkarimi promised that the city would put incentives in place to make sure that happened (because, in part, the city owns those garages underneath the mall.) However, the attorneys weren't sure how much pull they'd have, in part because the deal is almost done.
Here's hoping the community can work together to make sure the sad history of redevelopments in the J-Town area don't repeat themselves this time around.