Sakura Square in Denver Colorado has been home to many Japanese-American families and businesses for decades, and is now seeking a proposal to redevelop much of its downtown block to better serve and represent future generations. This redevelopment would be done around some existing landmarks such as museums, martial arts studios, Japanese restaurants, and gardens. The Tri-State Buddhist Temple would also remain where it is, but could potentially be getting a new building. A special effort is being made to preserve well established businesses and locations, such as the Pacific Mercantile, which has been family owned and operated for over 70 years. The owners of Sakura Square’s proposal specifically call for a “redevelopment outcome that reflects their sensitivity to sustainable and superior modern Japanese-influenced design and architecture. Quality over quantity is a focus. When complete, the block should be a simple but iconic expression of Japanese community and culture and have a gracious presence in relationship to the street, neighborhood and community.”
The areas that would be renovated could give Sakura Square, and Denver as a whole, new office spaces, residential areas, and retail space. This proposal comes from a night and day transformation of what Sakura Square was when first established. As Sakura Square CEO Gary Yamashita said “When members of the temple first purchased the block 45 years ago, this area of Denver was literally Skid Row. It was bars and brothels. We’ve had such good fortune that it’s probably some of the hottest real estate in Denver, right next to LoDo, right next to the ballpark, right next to the redevelopment in Arapahoe Square.”
The desire to keep the Square’s location in downtown Denver is more than just a monetary one, however. Many families and businesses feel tied to that location, and have spoken out about selling the block and relocating the temple when considered in the past. Sakura Square is the remnants of a much larger Japanese-American neighborhood that began close to 1900 when many Japanese came to Colorado as farmers.
“2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Denver Buddhist Temple. It hasn’t been at Sakura Square for all 100 years, but this is its 100th year,” Yamashita said. “We’re now looking at re-positioning ourselves for the next 100 years — Sakura Square and the temple. It’s looking into the future.”
The owners of Sakura Square have already put forth their request for developers to submit proposals for the redevelopment with a deadline set for October 19th. From that point they will decide which proposals to pursue further and discuss more in depth plans. Whatever the outcome, this will mark a big change in the heart of downtown Denver Colorado.