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It's an artwork-in-progress by the beach

NEIGHBORLY ADVICE: DEL REY ARTS DISTRICT

February 24, 2008|Diane Wedner | Times Staff Writer

The loft-and-latte crowd is setting up house in the trendy Del Rey Arts District -- also known as the Marina Arts District. The tiny but flourishing neighborhood in Marina del Rey's old commercial hub is a hot spot for those with an artistic bent and is within walking distance of the beach and close to Venice's Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

Beginnings

This little slice of Marina del Rey -- roughly bounded by Beach Avenue to the north, Maxella Avenue to the south, Del Rey Avenue to the west and Redwood Avenue to the east -- once was farmland. By the 1940s, some commercial buildings had sprung up, and by the 1950s, a smattering of small residences had emerged amid the industrial and manufacturing complexes.

The 1960s brought warehouses and food-processing plants, and in the 1990s, Internet companies and other "creative offices" opened in the grittier, less-pricey-than-Santa Monica community next to Marina del Rey's harbor.

By the early 2000s, developers saw a gold mine in this neighborhood whose manufacturing past was fading. Builders touted the area's proximity to beaches and bike paths, as well as the affordable prices, and buyers began purchasing the new condos and lofts, many of which still are going up.

What it's about

If Hollywood's loft scene is about nightclubs and celebrities, and downtown's attracts young professionals, the Del Rey Arts District is all about the creative class.

Artists and entertainment-industry workers are attracted to the high-density lofts and condos that feature flexible quarters for live/work arrangements.

Tucked amid the auto-body shops, storage facilities and architectural offices are cutting-edge creative companies, such as advertising agency Ground Zero, which created the campaign for the Bijan cologne named after Michael Jordan. Some of the district's original brick buildings house a Pilates center and other trendy businesses.

Not especially attractive to families, the district skews toward young, unattached buyers. At Element, John Laing Homes' 50-unit loft development, about 70% of the buyers are under 40 and 64% are single, said Kathy Kerr, director of sales for John Laing Homes Los Angeles/Ventura division. Prices range from about $569,000 for a 1,055-square-foot unit to $1.5 million for a 1,594-square-foot penthouse.

"Buyers in the district are hip, young, less mainstream," Kerr said. "They're TV writers, talent agents, they work for music companies and on film productions."

Insider's viewpoint

Lewis Lewis faced a choice two years ago: Buy a condo in neighboring residential giant Playa Vista or in the Marina's small arts district.

"It was an easy decision," the 55-year-old jewelry designer said. "I like walking, and here I'm near a bookstore, two movie theaters, supermarkets and Costco."

Lewis works both from home and downtown, the latter commute requiring a 40-minute drive each way. So when she's in the district, she appreciates the five-minute stroll to the local shipping store, her herbal pharmacy and the beach. "I never have to leave the community when I'm home."

Home is an 800-square-foot, one-bedroom condo in Del Rey Terrace, in the heart of the district, that she purchased two years ago for under $500,000.

The Mediterranean-style condo complex features a pool and spa, a screening room and lounge and a fitness center. One-bedrooms sell for $475,000 and up; a two-bedroom recently sold for $633,000.

Housing stock

When all of the projected condo and loft projects are completed, there will be about 1,000 units in the district. Among them is developer California Landmark's R1 Living town homes, starting at $800,000, and G1 Living, 52 spacious lofts that list from $775,000 to $1.1 million. Both of those developments are completed. The latter features distressed hardwood floors, exposed pipes, 18-foot ceilings and sun decks with views.

Also in the works is California Landmark's 119 loft condos -- G2 Living -- starting at $500,000, opening at year's end, and R2 Living -- 141 loft apartments available this spring, featuring a pool, spa, gym, barbecue/lounge area, cabanas, fire pits, media room and an office/conference room.

In addition to the Element lofts, John Laing Homes has completed the 77-condo Indigo project.

Also available in the 30-acre district are the Glencoe Lofts; the 16-unit, high-end Steel Lofts; and several apartment complexes.

diane.wedner@latimes.com

Sources: Agent Lisa DeRose, Innovative Realtors, Marina del Rey, www.lisaderose.com; www.californialandmark.com; www.elementmdr.com; www.johnlainghomes.com/ Default.aspx?DN=cac1f03c- a4dc-401e-aaf0-9b54cac94425; www.steellofts.com.

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