The City of Santa Maria is partnering with the Santa Maria Japanese Community Center (SMJCC) to create a new space that honors Japanese immigrants from the past and the first generation who moved to the U.S., known in Japanese as the Issei.
The Community Center will be located at what is now a large lawn that faces the Smith-Enos house.
“They just wanted to make Santa Maria their home, and after going away to internment camp, they all made the choice to come back to Santa Maria… or, most of them,” Joanne Nishino Spencer said about her ancestors.
The building will be constructed in the likeness of a barn to match the Smith-Enos landmark and renovation.
Alex Posada, Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Director, said it would be 10,000 square feet with a lobby and space for art displays that depict the Issei experience.
There will also be a Japanese garden erected in the space between the Community Center and the Smith-Enos House.
Originally, the SMJCC had a previous space in the form of a Gakuen, or Japanese language school, that dated from the 1920s. But, back in 2017, the organization sold it and now needs a new gathering place.
With the money from the sale, they were able to donate $300,000 toward this new space.
Posada predicts the project will cost around $3 million total, with donations from the community. However, the bulk of it will come from the city as well as state and federal grants.
He said that the final design will be submitted to the city in about a month, and the project should take three to four years in its entirety.
Nishino Spencer was enthusiastic about the plan and said, “[The Community Center won’t be] just for the Japanese, but we want the entire community of Santa Maria to come and enjoy this facility.”
After it is built, it will be open for recreation, weddings, and other events.