Members of the West Hollywood City Council joined representative of Avalon Bay Communities to officially break ground this morning on Avalon West Hollywood, a 400,000 square foot complex of residences and shops on the Santa Monica Boulevard lot known as Movietown Plaza.
The project has been dubbed “Avalon West Hollywood” according to Chris Payne, senior vice president at Avalon Bay Communities, who participated in the event. He said Avalon expects it to be “our flagship complex in Southern California.”
Payne said the movie camera sculpture that has served as a symbol of the shopping plaza will be retained and incorporated into the Avalon West Hollywood design. He credited local resident Cathy Blaivas for suggesting that.
Payne also announced that Trader Joe’s will return. That grocery store was one of the last remaining businesses in Movietown Plaza. It opened there in 1985 and closed last September so that demolition of the buildings on the lot could begin.
And he said that West Hollywood Housing Community Housing Corp., the non-profit agency that has built much of the city’s housing for low-income and elderly and disabled people, will acquire and manage a 77-unit building on the property that Avalon will construct.
Payne said Avalon expects it to be “our flagship complex in Southern California.”
The Avalon West Hollywood project is designed by MVE & Partners of Irvine. It will include 293 other market-rate housing units and 32,300 square feet of retail space that will house Trader Joe’s along with restaurants and shops. Mayor John D’Amico, who participated in the ceremony welcoming Avalon along with Councilmembers John Duran, John Heilman and Abbe Land, said he expected the project to be completed in 24 months.
It has been years in the making. In 2006 Casden Properties acquired the three-acre lot between Poinsettia Place and Fuller Avenue. A financial dispute between Casden and its financial backers brought brought its plans to a halt. Its plan called for construction of two 10-story towers and 26,000 square feet of commercial space along with 300 apartments. The scale of the project prompted objections from area residents such as Blaivas and Ruth Williams.
Avalon, one of the nation’s largest real estate developers, bought the property in 2012. Its 300 residential units will be smaller than those in the Casden plan. It reduced the building heights from ten stories to seven. Also its design calls for a wide pedestrian mall between the major buildings on the property and from bringing the building for low-income housing, relegated by Casden to the back of the lot, closer to Santa Monica Boulevard.
Williams praised the project today. “The Eastside will not longer be referred to as the ‘blighted area’ or the ‘industrial area’ or the ‘east end’,” she said. “We can now proclaim that our Eastside is a highly desirable place to work, live and play.”