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Thursday, Dec 7, 2023

Renovation Follows Preservation Battle in Venice

After sitting nearly vacant for years as preservationists and residents fought to keep it from being demolished, one of L.A.’s only remaining post-war garden-style apartment complexes is getting new life breathed into it.

Known as Lincoln Place, the 35-acre, 696-apartment complex in Venice beginning next month will undergo a $150 million renovation and redevelopment that will restore the existing historic buildings and add 13 new residential buildings and other amenities.

Aimco Venezia LLC, owned by Aimco Holdings LP in Denver, which purchased the property in 2004, announced last week it received the last component needed to move forward with its plans: a $190 million loan, insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We are delighted,” said Patti Shwayder, senior vice president of Aimco. “We are eager to start a new phase of bringing the community back to life.”

Lincoln Place, once a bustling community that attracted renters from different ethnic and economic backgrounds, was left in disrepair during a nearly two-decade-long court battle with residents and preservationists who opposed proposals by two different owners to replace it with new condos or apartments. But a compromise plan may allow Lincoln Place to once again become an attractive and popular community for the housing-strapped Westside.

Observers say that the project is a welcome addition to Venice, where tech companies such as Google Inc. have been expanding their presence, thereby increasing demand for residential space.

“It’s a very timely plan that capitalizes on an affluent, expanding tenant base in Venice,” said Paul Habibi, a multifamily developer and lecturer at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. “Given that fewer than 100 new rental units have been built in this submarket since the recession, the market is likely to absorb this new inventory quite rapidly.”

Historic property

Built in the early 1950s, Lincoln Place was designed by architect Ralph Vaughn in the 1930s “Garden City” style, which valued open residential complexes with outdoor green space immediately accessible by every unit. Few garden-style complexes still exist today. Others include Boyle Heights’ Wyvernwood and Baldwin Hills’ Village Green. Today, as a result of the preservationists’ battle for the project, Lincoln Place is listed on the National and California Register of Historic Places.

The original property had a total of 52 two-story walkup and one-story bungalow buildings, comprising 795 units, but some were demolished over the years. The units range from one to three bedrooms.

Aimco, which purchased Lincoln Place for $122 million, originally planned to level the property to build new apartment buildings, Shwayder said.

“We worked with the community and it became much more advantageous to keep the existing buildings and rehabilitate them,” she said. “That was a shift in our thinking.”

Aimco received entitlements and permits for the project last year. It already restored four buildings comprising 50 units, but it plans to begin the renovation in earnest next month.

It will rehabilitate the remaining 41 buildings, comprising 631 vacant apartments, and construct 13 new buildings with 99 units, over the next two years. It will also build a 5,000-square-foot leasing center and a 6,100-square-foot fitness center, plus a pool area.

The 41 buildings will be rehabilitated according to guidelines for historic structures. Their primary character-defining features, such as the wood-accent siding and façade elements, will be restored while exterior stucco will be patched and repainted. New electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems will be added.

The interiors will receive more open floor-plans and be updated with new appliances, tiles and restored hardwood floors. Existing cabinets will be replaced with dark walnut or birch and white cabinets and countertops will be replaced with quartz. The 13 new buildings will be designed to complement the existing structures on the inside and outside.

The company projects monthly rental rates of about $2,470. The existing units will be put back on the market under special rent control, which allows an 8 percent annual increase for the first 54 months before the citywide 3 percent takes effect. The 99 new units will be market-rate. Tenants who were evicted from 83 units during the court battle will be allowed to return.

Overall, the plan has the developer, residents and preservationists pleased.

“It’s what I had envisioned from the beginning,” said Amanda Seward, a Santa Monica attorney who represented the Lincoln Place tenants. “I’m actually thrilled. I never thought we’d get to this point.”

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