Image courtesy of InterIm CDA.

Community and culture are two things that are at the forefront of the Chinatown International District (CID). Showing appreciation for those that paved the way for so many in a neighborhood that is facing displacement and gentrification measures is essential for harboring a sense of unity and support.

With a mission of advancing social justice and equity for low-income Asian and Pacific Islander refugee and immigrant communities, the CID-based organization InterIm CDA is doing just that with the creation of their most recent affordable housing building, Uncle Bob’s Place in the CID.

“The building and project itself, it’s location and the way it’s going to function is really an embodiment of Uncle Bob’s vision for the neighborhood,” said Leslie Morishita, real estate developer at InterIm CDA. “It’s going to have low income housing for individuals and elders and lots of units for families with kids.” 

Uncle Bob’s welcoming nature and strong vision for an equitable and culturally rich neighborhood is something that will live on through Uncle Bob’s Place for years to come. 

Image courtesy of InterIm CDA.

“The idea is for the building to not just honor Uncle Bob’s legacy by talking about who he was and educating people but to actually carry that legacy forward which was really centered around community organizing and advocacy for the neighborhood,” said Morishita.

With an arts and aesthetic committee formed in early 2020, various artists have been discussing and planning out creative and meaningful ways to pay homage to Uncle Bob Santos through the design of both the inside and outside of the building.

“You don’t have to be in the building to learn about his history and his legacy,” said Kumata. “There’s going to be these balcony railing designs that are going to be on the outside of the building. We’re thinking of getting up to 12 different artists to design patterns for those that will show the diversity and history of the ID through different imagery created by a diverse selection of artists.”

By providing opportunities for local artists to contribute to the creative aspect of this building, Interim CDA is carrying out Uncle Bob’s vision of community gathering and advocacy.

Honoring his leadership which has affected the lives of so many within the CID community is one of many ways this project is keeping Bob Santos’ spirit alive and appreciated.

“The traditional role of the neighborhood is like a first landing spot for immigrants and refugees from around the world and the heart and soul of the community is the low income elders, Asian pacific island elders, the small mom and pop business owners,” said Morishita. “We see this project as really trying to sustain the neighborhood for the people who are here now.”

With a constantly developing world, it is the goal of everyone involved in this project as well as Uncle Bob Santos to not let development take away from the things that have made the International District so unique and special for so many years.

“We see housing as kind of a basic foundational element for a strong and stable community and neighborhood,” said Morishita. “It’s incredibly important to create this community-based ownership and to have a project that’s really based in the community.”

Stable housing and community support are parts of the CID and this project that directly reflect the values and visions of Uncle Bob. 

“Because he stayed engaged and focused for decades, and he mentored and inspired so many community advocates and leaders through the years, he, I think more than anyone else, is the reason why we have such a strong and intact International District neighborhood today,” said Morishita.

Being able to experience and interpret Bob Santos’ vision for the CID and create a space that portrays every aspect of who he was and what made him so special is a task that has taken a team of dedicated people who are committed to honoring his legacy.

“We’re expecting construction to start sometime in the second week of March and construction is going to be a 21-month period, so we’re anticipating completion sometime in December 2022,” said Morishita.

The creation of Uncle Bob’s place will not only pay homage to Uncle Bob himself but it will represent the genuine love and appreciation that everyone who knew him had for him.

“It’s been a really good experience for the people on the committees because we miss him a lot but this is a way to kind of keep his spirit alive. He was a very unique person, he was always welcoming,” said Kumata. “He treated everybody like family. He treated everyone with love and humor and respect.”

Uncle Bob’s spirit is still alive and vibrant in the CID and it is shown by the effort and collaboration of everyone who loves him and is dedicated to creating a space that will pay tribute to his legacy.

“This project is really coming from our hearts, it’s really a labor of love for us at InterIm, because of who Bob was for us,” said Morishita.

There will be a virtual groundbreaking event on February 25th which is Uncle Bob’s birthday, starting at 5:00 PM. Visit www.interimcda.org for more information.   

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