CHINATOWN : Scope of Walkway Project in Dispute

Landowners with property close to a proposed light-rail station in Chinatown have offered to join the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in development of a pedestrian walkway that would lead from the station into the heart of the historic neighborhood.

The owners of a parcel at Broadway and College Street, which includes the landmark Little Joe's restaurant, are lobbying the MTA and community members to approve their proposal, which would include 80,000 square feet of commercial development and a 500-space parking structure.

But a community group says the plan does not have enough financial backing and goes against what they say is the neighborhood's consensus for a simple platform and ramp across public property.

The plan may also take years to complete, causing MTA officials to turn their attention elsewhere, said Don Toy of the Chinatown Community Advisory Committee.

David Louie, a consultant for the Nuccio family, which owns the land, said the family's proposal would mean a bigger opportunity to spur development and business in Chinatown.

"The other option is nothing more than a place to get on and off the train," Louie said.

The issue will be discussed April 19 at a public meeting, the last in a series that have been held by the MTA for nearly a year.

Members of a community panel will attend the public forum and meet on April 20 to vote on their recommendations to the MTA, a spokesman for the agency said.

The elevated station planned for Alameda and College streets is seen by many local residents and business leaders as a way to reinvigorate the historic neighborhood, which over the years has lost clientele to burgeoning Chinese communities in the San Gabriel Valley.

Chinatown officials have been searching for ways to improve what they say is the area's reputation as crowded and unsafe, with high land prices, dirty streets and few parking spaces. Many believe a walkway is a step in the right direction.

"In general, it would be positive to the community both in terms of the transportation means and the economic conditions," said William Tan, chairman of the Chinatown Economic Development Council and a panel member. "This could be the only catalyst to improve the community."

The Chinatown stop will be one of 14 on the Pasadena Blue Line when it opens sometime after 1998, MTA officials said.

The $841-million line will stretch almost 14 miles through Downtown, Highland Park, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

The architectural firm of Jubany-Mutlow was hired by the MTA last year to conduct a $71,000 study of methods of connecting the station from Alameda Street to North Broadway.

Architects came up with 10 concept drawings that focused on an elaborate walkway that would include a lower- and upper-level plaza design.

Although only $3.4 million in city funding has been secured for a pedestrian connection from the station into Chinatown, MTA officials and Chinatown community activists hope detailed plans for a walkway will make it easier to solicit financial support from the state or federal government or from private developers.

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