Case Study: Koreatown
For more than a decade, the Korean community pressed the City of Los Angeles to remake a small eyesore into a public space honoring the Korean heritage of the surrounding neighborhood. The parcel stands at the heart of Koreatown — the busy intersection of Normandie Avenue and Olympic Boulevard.
As the project moved ahead, it became clear that members of the Korean community wanted an active voice in determining how the space could represent their heritage.
Some wanted only traditional elements of the Korean culture. Others wanted a contemporary look and feel based on that heritage. One of the main challenges in the project was how to balance these different views of the project.
The City invited LANI to assume responsibility for the project so the many voices of the community could plan, design and manage the space for themselves. LANI’s first step was to create a 20-person Project Steering Committee to represent the extended community and guide the direction of the project.
LANI used its extensive experience to assist the Project Steering Committee throughout the project. The group selected a designer who created a plan that blended both traditional and contemporary elements into the new space. The community had finally found a solution that married the interests of all groups: An authentic Korean pavilion and garden stands at one end of the site, combined with contemporary features opposite it.
The Project Steering Committee immediately faced another challenge. The construction cost far exceeded the existing budget. How would they pay for the project?
Community leaders started a major fundraising campaign that added more than $300,000 to the project. When combined with the public funds available, this allowed the Project Steering Committee to build the pavilion and garden as designed, without compromise.
The Da Wool Jung — Harmonious Gathering Place — now marks the core of Koreatown. The Korean pavilion that is the centerpiece of the space was built by South Korean craftsmen brought here for the job and is completely authentic.
The project took five years of planning, fundraising and work.
Da Wool Jung has become the focus for continuing improvements in the area. Korean design elements appear in the outdoor spaces of the nearby elementary school, on the building of the adjacent senior center and in the lights, transit areas and median landscaping nearby.
LANI continues to work with the community and has three new projects in development:
- Improving the local transit stop, replacing sidewalks and adding a decorative memorial wall.
- Building a gateway that proposes crossing Normandie and celebrates Koreatown.
- Coverting the street north of the Pavilion into a multipurpose pedestrian space.
The former eyesore has become a catalyst in turning the neighborhood into a vibrant, unique and culturally significant corridor.