Korean American investor plans massive housing complex at Little Tokyo Galleria

The Little Tokyo Galleria and the 3.6-acre site at 333 South Alameda Street
The Little Tokyo Galleria and the 3.6-acre site at 333 South Alameda Street

It seems nothing is more fashionable right now than building multifamily in DTLA.

Fashion merchant Dae Young Lee wants to breathe new life into the Brutalist Little Tokyo Galleria, a shopping center just north of the Arts District, by building an expansive housing complex at the site, he told The Real Deal.

Lee, the president of wholesale distribution company Joia Trading Inc., has yet to pick the development partner for the project, he said. But his plans for a mixed-use development at 333 South Alameda Street were filed last week, laying out an ambitious vision of 994 apartments and 99,300 square feet of commercial space adjacent to the galleria, Urbanize reported.

While the property manager Jay Kim declined to comment on the future of the Galleria, the owners were planning a residential building on the site of a parking lot on the northwest corner of Fourth and Alameda Streets in 2014, according to the Los Angeles Downtown News.

The project would require a general plan amendment to change the land use designation from manufacturing to commercial, as well as a zone change and height district change, city documents show. Of the 994 units, 110 would be live-work lofts and 160 would be reserved for low-income households.

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Lee purchased the 3.6-acre property with two partners for $34.5 million in 2008. The investors renovated Little Tokyo Galleria in 2014, placing large LED screens and metallic panels on the facade.

The three-story mall was 94 percent occupied as of April 2015, according to Real Capital Analytics. Current tenants include the Little Tokyo Market, Japanese market Daiso, and a bowling alley called X Lanes.

Lee’s multifamily plans have been in the works for nearly three years, according to previous reports of the Galleria’s renovations. But no plans were filed with the city until Friday, zoning records show.

The filing comes as voters prepare to cast their ballots on the controversial Measure S, which if passed would impose a two-year moratorium on any development that requires changes in maximum height or land use designation. In other words, if passed, Measure S would effectively nix Lee’s project.

Little Tokyo Galleria isn’t the Fashion District businessman’s only real estate venture. Lee is also behind plans for a 20-story condo complex on the corner of Hill Street and Olympic Boulevard, he said. Dubbed the “Hill,” the development would contain 232 condo units as well as 14,000 square feet of ground floor retail, according to city filings.

Eda Kouch contributed to the reporting.

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