Real estate: TLC boosts 3 L.A.-area enclaves


In a city as vast and historically rich as Los Angeles, finding a neighborhood -- and home -- with character is relatively easy, but transforming that home into a place one wants to live in can be another story. Three Los Angeles neighborhoods are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, with homeowners either renovating existing homes or tearing down wrecks and starting from scratch. They might have once been down and out, but now these locales are sitting pretty.

Angelino Heights

Los Angeles' first recognized historic district is bordered by Westlake (the neighborhood near MacArthur Park, not to be confused with Westlake Village) to the south and by Echo Park on its other sides. While revered for its Victorian homes, especially along Carroll Avenue, the neighborhood, which was founded in 1886, also boasts mission revivals, craftsmans and Spanish-style residences. Says Coldwell Banker realtor Richard Stanley, "People have rediscovered it and are restoring Victorian homes and moving early-20th century-era older houses on site, while also demolishing inappropriate homes." Several blocks recently joined together and buried overhead wires, erecting historic streetlights. "It looks like the set of (1944's) 'Meet Me in St. Louis,'" Stanley says, "but then there's the downtown skyline in the background. It's very dramatic." Stanley notes that listings are rare, but nice Victorians, some of which still have period details like original wallpaper, generally run from $1.2 million-$1.5 million.

Mar Vista

Located directly east of Venice and close to Culver City, Mar Vista is experiencing a renaissance thanks to home buyers being priced out of Venice but still desiring to be close to the beach and studios. The art world has taken notice, with an influx of galleries beginning to move off Robertson and out of Beverly Hills to set up shop in Mar Vista. Built primarily in the 1940s and '50s as a working-class neighborhood, many of the homes are being reinvented by young architects eager to make their mark. "The real estate market has been slowing down dramatically," says George Penner, a partner in the real estate firm Deasy/Penner & Partners, "but then you go to a market like Mar Vista where we're selling over asking price, and it shows you something different is going on." One of the properties the firm is representing was built by architect and seller Jennifer Wen, who designed a modern treehouse with an open floor plan in the public spaces. Located on Charnock Road, the home has three upstairs bedrooms and a roof deck overlooking the garden. The house is currently on the market for $2.25 million.

West Adams

Located in the center of Los Angeles, this neighborhood boasts one of the largest collections of historic homes in the country, in styles ranging from Victorian to craftsman to mission revival. While the building of the Santa Monica and Harbor Freeways decimated much of the neighborhood in the 1950s, it is now experiencing a large bump in popularity, helped by its designation as a historic district in the 1990s. Steve Portigiani, a partner in the real estate firm Deasy/Penner & Partners, bought a dilapidated, 5,400-square-foot, 1909 Gothic revival there 10 years ago. While it's been an investment -- he estimates that a home costing $250,000 a decade ago would fetch $1.8 million today -- he says he can't imagine selling it, echoing the sentiments of many of his neighbors whose homes have been in their families for generations. It's not just his attachment to the original light fixtures or his staircase, which measures 12 feet across, but, he says, "West Adams is a little paradise."  


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