When the Metro Rail stretches out to Santa Monica in 2016, it will be the second electric transit system to ever cut through to the Westside beaches. Venice is a city that once enjoyed the pleasures of a highly efficient railway system that ran partially through Electric Avenue, where this fabulous modern architectural loft building at 1113 Electric Avenue is located.
Built in 2000, this property was one of the first artist loft buildings to crop up in Venice and is in a prime location, right near all the shops and restaurants on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, once dubbed
“The Coolest Block in the US” by GQ Magazine.
1113 Electric Avenue has three floors and features 16 units, with each condo offering exposed steel trusses, and creative built-ins.
Pictured here is the private outdoor space of unit #12 — box seat’s view to the coolest neighborhood in town.
We had the pleasure of speaking with former resident Lesley Chilcott, the documentary filmmaker and producer known for her groundbreaking work on An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman.
Lesley purchased a unit right when the property was built in early 2001, and lived in the complex for a little over a decade. We asked her what initially drew her to the space at 1113 Electric Avenue. “I had been living in Venice for a very long time, since the early 90s,” she said. “It was a very diverse community–people from all different countries, all different income levels, all different interests. From artists to woodworkers to chefs to bankers. For me, it was one of the most diverse communities in LA that still offered clean air and the beach.”
With fabulous views of the Santa Monica mountains, it’s no wonder that the rooftop was the talented director’s favorite place to spend time.
“We had a whole outdoor patio set up there with plants…our little urban jungle,” Lesley said. “Interestingly enough, out of the sixteen units in the building, there are probably only four or five neighbors that regularly used the roof. You go up there on the Fourth of the July and you can see six different fireworks shows going on.”
Indoors isn’t a drag, either: huge architectural windows flood natural light through picture windows into this launchpad full of possibilities.
As a prolific director and producer, Leslie found some creative inspiration from the malleability of the space: “There’s a certain vibe in the neighborhood that is creative. There are constantly people painting things and street artists and new murals. That ability to constantly rearrange your place…it’s a live/work residence, so sometimes I would be in between documentary projects and have people come work out of my house for a few days. Because nothing was permanent, and there would be nothing on the walls, I would rearrange it to suit them for a few days. Then a friend would be coming to stay, so we’d rearrange it and there’d be a mock bedroom.”
“Constantly having that flexibility of no walls or moving walls can help you think more openly and help you be open to change or new ideas,” she added.
Stainless steel appliances add a cool, modern edge–a loft-living essential.
The kitchen and dining areas cater to the best of the best. Karen Knowles Zuniga, the owner of Electric Avenue Chef—a popular chef service that caters to A-listers–once resided in the building. The kitchen design puts everything a cook needs within reach.
Prolific film editor Nicholas de Toth, who worked on The Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Live Free or Die Hard, also claimed one of the condos for his own.
Trip-hoppers and Anglophiles everywhere will be thrilled to know that Adrian Thaws AKA Tricky, once resided in a unit while recording an album there sometime around 2006-7. Leslie recalls seeing him for the first time: “I remember one day I was wandering to that end of the building with my recycling, and there’s this guy hanging out the window. I’m like “Hi,” and he said, “I’m Adrian.” He was working on one of his albums, much to the chagrin of his neighbor, who was a stockbroker that got up at 4 a.m. He literally had the exact opposite schedule.”
Flow for workspaces, built-ins, and premium storage are well-placed in each unit, of course.
Garage both cars with plenty of space for storage, or for the fashion-minded (like the current residents of unit #12) , even a private dressing room!
The Venice, CA of today is much like its European sister of the Renaissance age. Just like its European counterparts, the citizens of this city-by-the-ocean also seek to bring intellectual, social, artistic, and physical innovation to their environment. 1113 Electric Ave bridges the modern and the historical, as some delving into Venice history illuminates.
Thanks to the whims of tobacco businessman Abbot Kinney, who wanted to recreate the beloved Italy of His Travels in Los Angeles, we have Venice of America, or, as we like to call it, Venice.
On July 4, 1905, Kinney launched this planned community on ground that was previously marshland, wanting to create a cultured city with art and lectures reminiscent of what he saw in Europe. For years, people flocked to the resort town to enjoy the gondola rides, canals, and amusement parks.
Alas—the philistine beachgoing crowd won out, and the area quickly descended into something we are pretty familiar with today.
To help visitors get to the amusement parks in this new resort town, in 1903, a Pacific Rail route was built from Venice City Hall to the lagoon area, under the ownership of Henry Huntington. In just a few short years that coincided with the formation of Venice of America, a fast, efficient transit system was established, and visitors flocked in droves to enjoy the amusement-park atmosphere of the area.
According to the Venice Historical Museum, The Venice Short Line (VSL) quickly became one of the most popular routes of the Pacific Electric’s Western district. “It was the shortest, most direct rail route to the Western beaches” and was a “spectacular performer in hauling crowds to the shore,” they write.
Electric Avenue was touted as prime real estate because of its proximity to the Venice Short Line.
The railway lines were abandoned in the 1950s, but that same spirit of creativity and innovation has sustained. Though Venice may not, at first thought, be equated with the Renaissance art, philosophy, and architecture of its European predecessor like Kinney had hoped, the city has become a beacon for LA’s thriving artistic, and more recently, technological communities. As Billy Al Bengston, a Venice musician and artist from the 1960s California pop art movement once said about Venice, “It was a no man’s land…with no place to go and nothing to do.” (Grove, Los Angeles Times, 2007)
Just a few steps away from 1113 Electric on Abbot Kinney, blocks of art galleries abound, in line with Venice’s long tradition of artistic, bohemian living. Renown artists Ed Ruscha and Laddie John Dill were two prominent fixtures in Venice’s art scene. Ruscha maintained a studio between Electric Avenue and Abbot Kinney for 26 years before being shoved out by the city in 2011 to build a parking lot. (Cue Joni Mitchell.) Ruscha and Dill shared a space that was a former Coors Beer warehouse, turning it into a largely outdoor space. Ruscha is now working out of a Culver City, CA studio.
The neighborhood is full of architecturals like 1113 Electric Avenue. Over at 330 Indiana Avenue is the Hopper House, the former home of Renaissance man Dennis Hopper. Designed by architect Brian Murphy in 1989 for the actor, photographer, and art collector Dennis Hopper, the unique wave-inspired shape and corrugated metal design is a standout in an otherwise more eclectic neighborhood. The home features a glass bathtub, motorcycle atrium, and used to have a bridge connecting the property to Hopper’s other two acquisitions behind the home (one of them a Gehry triplex). The bridge was removed after his death in 2010.
In the 1970s, when the counterculture movement spilled into these former railway communities of Venice, artists weren’t the only prominent subculture to form—the surfers also played their role. Primarily occupying the area known as “Dogtown” on the south side of Santa Monica, they found a home around an abandoned amusement park on the Ocean Park pier and turned it into their secret surf spot.
The Dogtown surfers developed a reputation for being rather rough—many of them were from broken homes—and found a voice when Jeff Ho’s Zephyr Surfboard Productions set up shop in 1972. Stacey Peralta chronicled this movement in his 2001 film Dogtown and Z Boyz. The mythos has inspired a variety of Dogtown-related additions to the city—Dogtown Studios (somewhat unromantically is a video game company), Dogtown Dogs food truck, Dogtown Station Condos, Dogtown Coffee, and on and on.
And let’s not forget the shoots. Abbot Kinney has certainly had its share of film crews and celeb sightings. Most recently, the show Californication starring David Duchovny, has been spotted quite a few times in the area.
Perhaps in a strange juxtaposition to the counterculture and artistic communities that exist all around 1113 Electric Avenue is the rapid growth of tech companies that make up what many call “Silicon Beach.” At first, companies like Yahoo set up shop in Santa Monica, but throughout the last two decades, they’ve headed into Venice.
“Silicon Beach is a reality, not just a moniker that journalists use,” Leslie said when we asked her about how the neighborhood has changed. “Venice is in a time of great flux right now…I would say that there are a lot of great things about it, but the reduction of diversity is one of the negatives about it.”
Companies like Snapchat, Omaze (housed in a section of Dennis Hopper’s old complex on Indiana), and the mothership of them all—Google—have recently moved into Venice in an attempt to stay beachside in something sexier than your standard office building. And sexy is what they got—in 2011, Google took up residence in the fantastic ocular specimen that is Frank Gehry’s “Binoculars Building,” former home to the advertising giant Chiat/Day.
YouTube, Beats by Dr. Dre, Vice, and Dollar Shave Club are among those that have found homes in Venice, though many of these companies are moving to surrounding areas that can accommodate their growing businesses.
What resonates most in this lively, erratic, and sometimes unpredictable beach town is the sense of community—and there is probably no place in Venice where community is reflected more than at Hal’s Bar and Grill. Sadly, just a few months ago this “Cheers” of Venice just a few blocks from 1113 Electric Avenue shuttered its doors after nearly 30 years.
Before Abbot Kinney Boulevard was even named after Abbot Kinney (it was West Washington Boulevard prior), Hal’s was in business. Owned by Hal Frederick and managing partners Don and Linda Novack, the restaurant has long been an institution in the neighborhood for its inclusiveness, ambiance, and great food.
Hal, a native of New York City, first opened a restaurant in Venice called Roberts after having worked as a maitre’d at another local restaurant. He made a name for himself as an actor in the 70s, and so when businessman Novack needed a partner to help him understand the local community better for a new venture he was embarking on, he asked Hal to join him. At the time, the neighborhood was largely African American, so it was especially relevant that Hal, as a black restaurateur, was the face of the restaurant.
Over the years, the three business partners managed to help change the name of the boulevard while drawing a wonderful community of artists, actors, and locals to their establishment. Ed Ruscha, Tim Robbins, and Sean Penn were regulars. Sammy Davis, Jr. and Aretha Franklin stopped by during the filming of Taps, according to an article in the LA Weekly. Oh and Marlon Brando, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Ed Moses, and the list goes on and on. Hal’s also featured a great lineup of jazz musicians, including Cal Bennett, John Nau, the Phil Upchurch Quartest, and Thom Rotella.
“Abbot Kinney is one of those special areas,” noted real estate agent Jay Luchs. “It’s a true neighborhood that people from other areas like to visit.” Luchs, who represented the former Hal’s property spoke to Legacies of L.A. in early July.
But Luchs appears to have been playing coy because that same week it was announced that a deal had been reached with Speedway Group, LLC a company purportedly out of New York.
The latest is that the former Hal’s property has sold for a whopping $44.75 Million — A number that has come as a shock to many, including local realtors. In fact, it’s actually cheaper to rent a store in Beverly Hills than on Abbot Kinney!
According to Yovenice.com:
“At $44,750,000, the price is more than double the amount paid by the property’s previous owners, when just two years prior, on June 14, 2013, DCA Abbot Kinney LLC paid $20,000,200 for the property parcel.
The sale of the property was finalized just over a month ago on June 11. The $44 million price included, not only the old Hal’s restaurant space, but adjacent retail, and the old Casa Linda restaurant space on the corner of Abbot Kinney and California Ave.”
The sale went through on the same day Hal’s Bar & Grill co-owners Don and Linda Novack and Hal Frederick, announced signing a lease with Lincoln Property Company. The move promises that by December 2015, an authentically Hal’s resto should re-open at Runway Playa Vista.
Institutions near 1113 Electric Avenue like Hal’s, the Electric Lodge, and of course, the more, uh, mobile institutions like Harold Perry (also known as the Rollerblading Guitar guy) make Venice a mecca for the idiosyncratic creatives of the world — and truthfully, that’s far better than the faux Italy that Abbot Kinney had originally envisioned.
Leslie reminisced about riding her skateboard to work when at a commercial production company nearby, and loved Hal’s and other restaurants like Lily’s and Joe’s. She worked out at Gold’s Gym and walked her dog everywhere. She likened the area to a “little San Francisco” (no gloating, NorCal readers) and though she and her family still reside on the Westside, she misses the diversity and accessibility that Venice offers. At the moment, she is in post-production on a freaking amazing-sounding doc tentatively titled #GirlsInTech about high school aged girls around the world that have three months to design an app that solves a problem in their community.
Though the worries about tech’s effect on the creative vibe of Venice are certainly warranted, it’s heartening to know that projects like #GirlsInTech continue to emerge from the city’s current and former denizens. The city is too imbued with decades of artistic vision for it to be obliterated.
Maybe Lesley was referring to the climate, but we think she said it best when she said, “Venice is cooler.”
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