Japantown Design Strategy Project


The RDA has been working with the Japanese American community on Japantown Street since 2018, on what began as a process to help mitigate the potential impacts of the West Quarter development on Block 67. From that process came the idea for the RDA to help the community articulate a vision for improvements to the public right of way on Japantown Street, and the RDA Board allocated $100,000 in RDA Central Business District Place Making funds to do so. The RDA worked with the community to select a consultant, which was GSBS Architects, to lead the visioning process and work with the community to craft the Japantown Design Strategy.

The RDA began the Japantown Design Strategy process with the community and GSBS Architects in January 2020, and after over a little more than a year of the community-led visioning process with Japantown leadership, community members, and area stakeholders, the strategy was completed in April 2021 and encompasses the community’s vision for improvements to the public right of way on Japantown Street.

The community identified three main elements as the priorities for Japantown Street, including improved functionality such as festival street enhancements, safety, and place making that establishes Japantown as the special place that it is. Due to the overall cost of the desired improvements, the vision will most likely be implemented in three separate phases, each building on the first and incorporating each type of important element as early as the first phase, and throughout each phase.

In addition to improvements to the public right of way, the community expressed interest in programming Japantown Street with active uses such as food truck events, as well as supporting Japanese American-owned businesses on Japantown Street as seen at other successful Japantowns throughout the United States. As such, the Design Strategy includes a Best Practices Report on the management, programming, and operations structure of other successful Japantowns to get an understanding of how they’re funded, managed, and successful overall.

Japantown Design Strategy

As part of the Japantown Design Strategy process, the community created the following Vision Statement and Design Guideposts to guide decision making for the community into the future. This important exercise played a key role in how the final Design Strategy came together.

JapanTown Vision


The community selected a preferred street concept which incorporated their main priorities including, but not limited to, festival street enhancements, safety, and place making.

Japantown Street
*Please note all images are conceptual only and subject to change


An example of how place making elements may be incorporated on Japantown Street based on the community vision includes history and storytelling elements, art elements, entryway monuments, and functional place making elements.


Japantown Placemaking
*Please note all images are conceptual only and subject to change


In addition to the above elements, the Japantown Design Strategy includes the following:

  • Summary of the Overall Process and Outcomes
  • Background and History of Japantown Street and the Design Strategy Project
  • Community Engagement Process
  • Design Approach
  • Implementation and Operations Recommendations
  • Appendices Including Japantown Historical Photos

You can download the Japantown Design Strategy document here.

What's Next

The the Japantown Design Strategy was shared in-person with the community at the 2022 Obon Festival. It has also received attention from The University of Utah Magazine in a feature article detailing the significance of the Street’s history. This article provides a glimpse into the creative process behind the design project. Additional articles were featured in the Salt Lake Tribune, FOX-13 & NPR.

Additionally, based on the best practices report that looked at other vibrant Japantown areas to get an understanding of how they’re successful, a key takeaway is the importance of a Japantown management group that oversees the area and coordinates funding and programming. One of the next steps will be for the community to decide how they’d like to be organized to begin seeking funding for the improvements identified in the Design Strategy, and it’s anticipated that the community will apply for City, RDA, County, State, and even national funding to support the revitalization of Japantown.


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