(Dear Readers: For years, Holland Partner Group has been pretty public about their plans to replace the historic Taix French Restaurant with a large mixed-use complex. In light of a recent filing, I suspect something else is up. To clarify, I'm not against development, I would just like to see the proposed project make good use of the enormous parking lot instead of removing a culturally and historically significant restaurant. This entry is crossposted from Frenchtown Confidential.)
I won't rehash the entire lengthy saga of the battle for Taix French Restaurant. That would take far too long. Here's the Cliffs Notes version, with links. TL;DR: the whole thing is about as sketchy as it gets.
Last week, photographer Gary Leonard posted a picture of a freshly-desecrated Taix. The mature plants in the brick planters are gone, "TAIX" has been (badly) painted on the side of the building (right over the decorative half-timbering), and both the roof and the planters appear to be falling into disrepair.
I suspect this is a deliberate move to drum up support for demolishing the building by making it look as bad as possible while still keeping the restaurant open - for now.
No permit was filed for the sloppy "mural", and there is something very strange (and concerning) about the demolition permit that the developer, Holland Partner Group, filed three months ago. (No permit has been issued - YET.)
From the permit:
DEMO AN (E) 1 STORY BUILDING OF APPROX 15,167 SF SINGLE STORY RESTAURANT WITH 2,554 SF BASEMENT. CLEAR LOT OF CURBS, PLANTERS, LIGHT POLES, ASPHAULT, SHRUBS ETC. NOTE: INTEND TO KEEP THE BASEMENT IN PLACE, AS IS. THE BASEMEN WILL BE ADDRESSED IN THE SHORING PLANS
Take special notice of that last bit: leaving the basement.
Basements are RARE in Los Angeles, and California has very stringent building codes due to earthquakes. Leaving an old basement in place when a new development is planned makes little sense.
There is also the matter of precedent.
According to my friends at Esotouric, "We’re not builders, but we are historians of redevelopment. And we know that in the past, when L.A. property owners wanted to cheaply get rid of an inconvenient building, they would leave the basement untouched, and often fill it with rubble from the building above, then pave over the parcel and have a lucrative surface parking lot until they got around to developing the land—sometimes decades later, sometimes never."
No one knows LA history better than Kim and Richard, and this does have the hallmarks of a potential cheap demolition. Filling the basement with debris and paving it would make entirely too much sense here, and it tracks with the worsening condition of the building. HPG could make money renting out parking spaces, and the flea market already held on site could expand.
Assuming the planned project does indeed get built, there would be underground parking, and the filled-in basement would presumably have to be excavated along with much of the lot. In the meantime, it's possible that the property (which already has a massive parking lot for Echo Park) could sit empty for years. (On a related note, I'm going to be furious if Taix is lost to an even bigger parking lot than the existing one.)
And it just might.
It's well known that Holland Partner Group paid $12 million for the Taix parcel and the adjoining overflow parking lot. Even in gentrified Echo Park, that's overpaying. HPG also spent six figures buying Mitch O'Farrell's support (this is on the public record). It begs the question of how much money HPG may have spent, in total, on the proposed redevelopment already (I suspect there might possibly have been other arrangements with other people) - and how much more they can justify paying for it.
Clyde Holland has an estimated net worth in the billions. You don't get rich and stay rich by holding onto an investment that isn't making the returns you'd expected. Most investors will dump an asset that isn't performing well enough.
Could HPG possibly be looking to offload the Taix parcel to another developer? Empty lots are far more appealing to developers than built-up ones - no pesky tenants to remove and no pesky demolition permits to secure.
Developers sometimes tell lies to get what they want - especially in LA. That's fact, not opinion.
Consider Lytton Savings, a "protected" landmark demolished for a Frank Gehry project that is probably never going to be built.
Consider the Chili Bowl, torn down because of vague mumblings about an affordable housing project that wasn't even planned. To the best of my knowledge, there hasn't been a whisper about it since, and I suspect there never will be.
While HPG's stated plan is to build on the site, I can't be 100 percent sure of that anymore.
In any case, go to Taix while it's still standing. If it is torn down, there might not be a new building for quite some time.