SANTA MONICA—A 58 unit affordable housing apartment complex is set to be built on what was formerly Santa Monica’s Nikkei Hall. The apartments will serve households earning at or below 30 and 50 percent of the Santa Monica area median income level. 

The developer recently cleared out the asphalt parking lot that surrounded the historic building that has been shuttered for some time. The frame of the one-time community center’s social hall and residence building are to be retained and incorporated into the new building.

According to the Santa Monica Conservancy website, Nikkei Hall’s history and status as a landmark will be enhanced by proper refurbishment and will receive a commemorative plaque once completed. The structure was saved from demolition when a member of the Landmarks Commission, who was familiar with the local history, reported the significance of the building in the lives of the Santa Monica’s historic Japanese-American community.

The Nikkei were a group of people from Japanese ancestry that settled into the Santa Monica area around 1900. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor an executive order forced Nikkei living on the west coast into internment camps. When they were able to return home, fewer than 200 Nikkei returned to Santa Monica. They rebuilt their community in the Pico neighborhood and that is where Nikkei Hall was established in 1957.  

According to the Santa Monica Conservancy website, it was at Nikkei Hall that Nissei (American-born Japanese) families gathered and socialized, connected with their heritage, celebrated holidays, conducted funerals and received support services. A decade later the use of the hall decreased significantly as these families began to move out of the area. By 2000, the Hall was used mostly by senior citizens and had dwindled to only a handful of members by 2017.

The project is scheduled to be completed in the Spring 2023. The total budget for this project exceeds $30 million.