The center of it all is Chapman Plaza, Sixth and Kenmore, the city's first drive-in (or really drive-through) shopping center - 1929 - Spanish Colonial Revival.
See the Los Angeles Business Journal, December 8, 1997 (Larry Kanter) -
Built in 1929 in Spanish Colonial Revival style by the designers of the Mayan and Egyptian theaters in Hollywood, the large, ornate shopping center is known as one of L.A.'s first and grandest mini-malls. But by the early 1990s, the space was half empty, with only an Indian restaurant, a flower shop and a struggling grocery store as tenants.
Young Soo Hua, an insurance broker with an eye for real estate, noticed that the growing number of young Korean professionals moving onto Wilshire Boulevard had precious few retail or restaurant options in the neighborhood.
"There was no shopping on Wilshire Boulevard," he recalls.
So in 1992, Hua purchased the property for $4.5 million, closed the market, subdivided the interior into 20 different spaces and began locating businesses to cater to a Korean clientele with money to spend.
Today, Chapman Market is fully occupied. Its courtyard is elegantly lit, with piped-in jazz music and a bubbling fountain. Most weeknights its parking lot is full; weekend crowds can number in the thousands, with people coming from as far as San Diego to patronize the center's restaurants, cafes, retail shops, pool hall and noraebang studio.
The principal architect of the Chinese Theater (1927) was Raymond M. Kennedy, of the firm Meyer and Holler. The firm's Egyptian Theater (1922) was also supposed to be Spanish Colonial Revival, like Chapman Plaza, but changed at the last moment because of the King Tut fad in all things Egyptian at the time. The firm is responsible for a third iconic building on Hollywood Boulevard, the Hollywood First National Bank, 6777 Hollywood Boulevard, at Highland (1927) - the tallest building in the city until the City Hall building was completed in 1932, downtown.
This is not Hollywood, but Kanter notes it sort of is -
By day, the streets around Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown are among the city's busiest - with thousands of office workers crowding the sidewalks, delivery vans fouling traffic, and noisy construction crews forever digging up pavement.
But in the evenings, the urban landscape takes on a different cast - becoming a little-noticed world of restaurants, pool halls, karaoke parlors, cocktail lounges and discotheques amid the darkened highrises and steel-gated storefronts.
"This is like Hollywood for Koreans," says Jenny Lee, a 27-year-old fabric buyer from Cerritos, nibbling on a spicy tuna hand roll at Nin Gen, a spare and stylish Korean-style sushi restaurant located in Chapman Market, an upscale shopping center on 6th Street.
With her multi-hued hair, dramatic eye makeup and dizzyingly high-heeled sandals, Lee would fit right in on the Sunset Strip or any of L.A.'s other trendy nightspots. But she prefers Koreatown.
"It's like (Hollywood), but in a Korean way," Lee said. "You don't see a lot of Koreans hanging out on Melrose."
The bulk of Koreatown's new nightlife is centered just north of the Mid-Wilshire office district on Sixth Street, which some call the "Korean Melrose." Even on week-nights, venues in the area tend to do a brisk business, with local office workers looking to unwind as well as twenty-something Korean trendies from across Southern California.
Los Angeles has a bit of everything - even new construction across the street, and French Norman silliness a block north on Fifth.