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The Future Of Flower Market May Include A 14-Story, Cubist Tower

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From the outside, the Southern California Flower Market in the Fashion District is fairly unassuming. Inside, however, it's abloom with daisies and orchids. In the wee hours of the morning, you'll find florists and landscapers walking down the aisles to scour for goods. According to KCET, the market had began in 1909 on 421 South Los Angeles St, then moved to its current location at 455 Wall St. The market was Japanese-owned, managed through a unique "shareholder collective" format that allowed the owners to pool their resources.

With such a long history, it's no surprise that the building is showing signs of age. Now, Scott Yamabe, the market's executive vice president, is looking to fix that by pushing for a development project that will revitalize (and expand) the space, reports LA Downtown News.

Yamabe is working with architects Brooks + Scarpa to reconfigure the Flower Market's two structures. One of the buildings will be renovated, while the other will be torn down to make way for a 14-story tower. The low-rise structure will house the flower vendors, as well as office space and a parking structure on top. The tower, on the other hand, is slated to have 290 rental units, as well as some low-income housing. The prices of the apartments have not been determined.

As Yamabe noted, the idea of adding housing in the Fashion District wouldn't have been an alluring idea 20 years ago. But it's 2016 now, and development is booming in neighboring downtown and the Arts District. Yamabe is betting that some of that fervor will spill over to the Fashion District as well. He told LA Downtown News that he expects to break ground in two years.

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There are some obstacles, of course. For one thing, the area would have to be rezoned to allow a mixed-use structure like the one Yamabe is proposing. The good news for the Flower Market is that its aspirations have already gained the support of 14th District Councilmember Jose Huizar. As noted by Urbanize LA, earlier this month Huizar had set forth a motion instructing the Planning Department to look into rezoning the area. In the motion, Huizar also expounded on the importance of keeping the market where it is:

Due to the condition and functional obsolescence of the existing buildings, the Flower Market needs to be rebuilt. Sale of the Flower Market property would likely result in a move of the business to a location outside of the City of Los Angeles, ending an important cultural and historic link with the Japanese-American community in the City as a whole.

Aside from the business aspect, the market was also symbolic of the immigrant experience in America. According to KCET, the shareholder collective format gave the Japanese-American vendors clout, when they would have been swallowed up individually by an inherently racist system. The California Alien Land Law of 1913 prohibited them from purchasing land, for instance. And when the Flower Market was established, it was criticized as being an enclave that resisted assimilation. The longevity of the market, then, serves as a testament to the resilience of the Japanese-American community in the Southland.