November 11, 2013 § 1 Comment
Two Silverlake construction projects would appear to be moving forward. Mostly the progress is illusionary.
Months ago, workers dug trenches and poured footers at the plot where Glendale Blvd. makes a 90 degree turn and Rowena begins. And then . . . nothing. Dirt, concrete, rebar left as it was. Unconfirmed rumor: The developers are behind on payments.
Then there’s the site of the late, lamented Coffee Table on Rowena. Developers put up a large sign announcing “exciting” new construction “coming soon”; that was, oh, maybe six months ago. Other than brush clearing, nothing else has been done.
July 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
It’s official: That re-do of the Ralph’s shopping center on Glendale Boulevard in Silverlake that I wrote about in the spring will feature, according to the L.A. Times, a Whole Foods store. Right now, the closest WF is in NE Glendale, with the one across from The Grove a distant second.
I should be ecstatic, right? I’ll no longer have to worry about Rice Dream bars melting before I get home.
But ecstatic I’m not and here’s why:
1. Ralph’s is staffed by union workers who get union wages and benefits. Ralph’s will move out so WF can move in–and WF has made sure that none of its stores are unionized.
Full disclosure: I don’t shop at Ralph’s much, preferring Trader Joe’s, which also is non-union. But lots of other people in the neighborhood do shop at Ralph’s, providing those union workers with jobs. Where will those employees go and where will neighborhood folks shop?
2. Not necessarily at WF–or Whole Paycheck, as friends prefer to call it–an upscale emporium selling natural and organic foods along with gourmet speciality foods (Exhibit A: their selection of olive oils). WF doesn’t carry the lower cost brands that Ralph’s does.
3. WF will not be a neighborhood store; shoppers will come from all around. Which means traffic, lots more traffic. The Silverlake/Glendale/Fletcher intersections already are gnarly during rush hours; what will it be like with WF in that block? Thinking about it gives me a headache.
4. WF’s founder and CEO, John Mackey, is a free market libertarian who called the Affordable Care Act “fascist”* and thinks climate change is not necessarily a bad thing. From one natural foods store in Austin, TX, WF has grown to more than 340 in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. Mackey’s business model has been to buy up or merge with other companies, often in a predatory manner, driving many local and regional chains out of business. I hate giving money to this guy.
5. Lastly, I keep thinking about those Rice Dream bars. How am I going to resist taking a three block walk every time I feel the urge for one?
February 25, 2013 § 1 Comment
It’s no mystery what used to be in this empty lot on Rowena: Blackburn Lodge—a down-at-the-heels board & care facility—a couple small cottages, a showroom with ever-changing tenants, and a neighborhood restaurant called The Coffee Table
Food at the Coffee Table was good enough that you’d take out-of-town friends there for weekend brunch and prices were reasonable. (Plus it was one of the first places around to have a vegan entree of scrambled tofu). They also sold The New York Times.
Seating was plentiful: a smoking section out front, large roofed patio in the back, and, in between, tables surfaced with colorful mosaic tiles.
All sorts of folks turned up at the Coffee Table: moms met other moms for coffee while their kids slept in strollers, community groups gathered for committee meetings, writers bogarted the tables near the windows, employees from local businesses came in for lunch.
Then, abruptly last year, our Peaceable Kingdom was upended: The landlord gave the Coffee Table one week to close up shop. Staff who had worked there for years were suddenly unemployed. Everyone was stunned.
We could have seen it coming. Years ago, developers bought the building and land under it intending to build condos. Blackburn Lodge shut its doors, but the other businesses held on while the new owners went through the permitting process. Neighborhood push-back forced the developers to integrate the Coffee Table into the project and to decrease the number of units being built.
Then the Great Recession hit and/or the developers got fed up with city and neighborhood demands, the project stalled and eventually the property was resold. The Coffee Table lived on, using portions of the Blackburn Lodge property for parking.
But, invisible to us, deals were in the works. New owners appeared, shut everything down, razed the buildings, and put up a chain-link fence. Rumor was that condos were in play again. That was at least a year ago.
I believe the property has changed hands again–or maybe I’m thinking of yet another sale during the Great Reprieve. In any case, nothing has been built–not even a building permit posted–and the lot remains empty save for castor plants.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
January 7, 2013 § 1 Comment
What we have here is a Silverlake de/construction mystery.
Long ago, a gas station sat in this space, the sort that looked as if it had once served Model Ts: one small service bay, one deck for pumps, one tiny office, a little bit of pavement. By the time I arrived in the neighborhood, however, the structure was being used as a repair garage with a few used cars for sale on the side. Then the used cars took over and the place became a sales lot.
And then the building and lot were emptied out, the structure demolished. The lot stayed vacant, long enough for Delancey Street’s Christmas tree lot to become a seasonal fixture.
Two years ago, the pavement was jack-hammered up, someone erected a chain link fence, and Delancey Street was preempted. The occupant of an adjacent building told me someone had told her a four-story building was to be erected in the space.
A four-story building on that little lot? At an intersection flush with commuter traffic racing to the freeway morning and evening? Where fire trucks from the station across the street plunge into traffic, sirens blaring? A building that would tower over every other edifice in the vicinity? At a corner angled so that drivers can’t see pedestrians in the crosswalk?
It seemed improbable and, in fact, other than a bulldozer leveling the ground many months ago, the lot remains empty.
These de/construction projects have a fairy tale quality: unknown figures make decisions about our neighborhood, unseen forces reshape the landscape. And then, one day, POOF! A new building arises, a new business is established, and we all move on.
Except those of us who remember a tiny former gas station where a mechanic fixed cars and sold a few on the side.