Lipson owner-tenant relationship frays as construction kicks off

| October 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

LIPSON BUILDING has long been home to small, locally owned businesses.

Tension between tenants of Larchmont’s historic Lipson Building and its new owner Christina Development came to a head after a block of parking spaces facing the property was reserved in October for construction.

“COVID has made our lives difficult enough without losing parking spots as well as visibility,” said Edie Frère, owner of Landis Gifts & Stationery in an Oct. 10 email to Councilman Ryu’s office inquiring on the loss of parking.

Ryu’s office confirmed that the application for the use of parking meters was made by Christina Development and its onsite construction team, Del Amo Construction. They also confirmed that “they will be constructing a pedestrian walkway there for safe passage” for construction set to start imminently.

Construction it seemed would begin sooner than tenants thought, which raised a sensitive subject for several tenants still operating, and paying rent, in the historic building.

Lipson Plumbing owner Bob Vacca told the Chronicle that Christina tried to “strong-arm” him into letting the construction team begin building a barricade to his storefront before his lease ends (on Dec. 31), but Vacca pushed back. Other shops were also approached with the proposal.

BARRICADE construction began Oct. 20 on the Lipson Building.

Del Amo Construction

Construction Superintendent Shane Aeshliman with Del Amo Construction now has an onsite office within the Lipson Building, where his team is preparing for construction.

“The plan is to start barricading only those units that are empty, starting at the north end of the property. As the barricading works its way south, so will the block of reserved parking spaces,” Aeshliman told the Chronicle.

“The City rejected the first plans for the barricade, so new plans are underway,” he explained.

One week later, Oct. 20, construction began on the barricades and pedestrian walkway skipping the Lipson Plumbing storefront, starting with the building’s next vacant space to the south. 

Christina Development

In an Oct. 8 press release from a Christina representative, the company publicly confirmed its lease agreement and repair plan.

A statement read, “The previous owner of our property set all tenant leases in the building to expire on or before Dec. 31, 2020. This simultaneous expiration of the tenant leases was intentional so that the building could thereafter undergo necessary repairs, which were, and are, long overdue. …

“Upon our taking ownership of the property, we began the planning process for completion of the repairs. While our desire was to keep the building occupied to the greatest extent possible during this repair work, it has been determined that the noise and disturbances will be too disruptive for our tenants to continue to operate.”

Chevalier’s feels betrayed

“You know that’s bullsh*t, right?” Chevalier’s Books Co-owner Bert Deixler told the Chronicle in response to the statement. The Dec. 31 date “has nothing to do with upgrading, nothing like that.” To the contrary, Deixler says that the year-end date was picked by the former owner’s trustee as a way to protect tenants and their rents as long as possible.

According to Deixler, Christina Development’s owner Larry Taylor had personally suggested assurances that Chevalier’s Books would be protected from renovation work, and that the city’s oldest independent bookstore would remain at that location.

Negotiations between Christina and Chevalier’s went on for months: “They even talked about naming the building “Chevalier’s,” said Deixler. “But Larry would never give us a written proposal.”

In August, Deixler said that Chevalier’s was told that Christina would begin construction in December and that all tenants must be out. When Deixler asked for a 90-day extension, it was denied.

“We don’t know what to do,” admits Deixler. “We don’t want to shut the thing down.”

“The whole thing is crazy. Christina has these insane views of the value. Larry has a list of chains he wants for the building, like Versace — it’s preposterous,” said Deixler.

SALON OWNER Vincent De Marco stands ready to move into a new location, seen here over his shoulder, following the end of his current lease.

Vincent has a plan

“I saw the writing on the wall,” admits Vincent De Marco, owner of the eponymously named salon in the Lipson Building.

“When I first took over the space [previously Haas & Co Hair Design], I understood that I needed four years to make this a destination, in order to survive what would come next.”

He could foresee the day when the building would have a new owner and rents would quadruple. “But I thought we could just give up half of the space, and still stay in the same location,” said De Marco.

For months he waited for information from Christina Development, with no luck. Finally, a representative for the company casually offered to rent the salon a space in another building on Third Street. De Marco took that as a sign they would not be able to stay in the Lipson Building, in a smaller space or not.

“At first, I was nervous about the overhead, and whether or not it was going to be too expensive for me to stay on the Boulevard, with our prices and the level of business that we’re doing,” said De Marco. After COVID-19 hit, Vincent Hair Artistry was closed for months due to restrictions on salons. He has built an outdoor space in his current location to accommodate clients, but it has nevertheless been a challenging year.

Then, De Marco’s luck changed last month.

After a chance encounter on Larchmont Boulevard with property owner David Adelipour, Vincent Hair Artistry now has a new home at 140 N. Larchmont Blvd., directly across the street from his current location.

“Working with David has been a total contrast to working with Christina Development,” admits De Marco. “He was willing to negotiate.”

The new salon is smaller than his current location, but the interior design will maximize the size and promote good lighting. De Marco has tapped Peter Vracko, known for his work on West Hollywood’s The Abbey, to design a “modern industrial” space complete with stylist stations that hang from the ceiling.

“It’s a better solution,” De Marco says of his new home. “I actually think we’re going to do much better there because it will be a more attractive venue for the general public.”

De Marco expects to welcome clients into the new space in January 2021.

Not another Rodeo Drive

“It’s a very difficult moment for everybody. There’s going to be major change coming,” said Dalia Moretti, owner of CH Boutique, a 16-year tenant of the Lipson Building.

Currently, Moretti does not have a plan for what comes next for her boutique, but she also worries for what will be forever lost on Larchmont.

“If you bring big chain stores here, Larchmont will lose all of its charm,” Moretti warns.

The longtime shop owner says that it’s sad to see such beloved places that are not going to be around anymore. And she is convinced that residents nearby don’t like it.

“People don’t want Rodeo Drive on Larchmont. Those stores are all exactly the same. Residents don’t want that here. The old money in this neighborhood likes to keep a low profile, and they like the European charm that unique boutiques bring to the block.

“It’s so sad to see what’s going on,” concludes Moretti.

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