Monday, May 7, 2012

Venice gets "The Frank" -- Mixed Use Residential / Commercial Complex -- Our "Frank" Assessment of this Green, New Addition to "Skid Rose"

I love Venice Beach - warts and all. Like Camden Town in London, where I hail from, it's a complicated, mishmash of styles, cultures and characters. It's as fascinating and beguiling as it is ugly and weird. But one thing remains constant - Venetians love #VeniceBeach and wouldn't want to live anywhere else. 

There's a lot going on in Venice these days from a real estate perspective; from the influx of Google employees to the new Windward Tech Circle that promises to breathe fresh life into the Post Office district

But nowhere is quite as contentious and complicated as the developments happening on Rose Avenue. As this agent has been blogging for quite a while, there are new restaurants, new bars, new boutiques and new juice bars opening up on an almost monthly basis. 

All will be overshadowed, however, by the big gala opening of The Frank building - the large mixed use residential / commercial complex on the site of the original bakery between 5th and 6th Streets. I took a tour of the complex the other day, inspecting all the lease homes, the grounds and finding out a bit more about the plans for the commercial spaces on the ground floor. Here is my "gloves off" reaction to what could make or break Rose Avenue!

Here are the main details - #TheFrank building ( / @livefrankly) will offer around 70 new apartments and townhouses ranging from one bedroom, one baths to two bedrooms, two baths to townhouse homes spread over two floors. All units will have washer-dryer in-unit, outdoor patio space and access to common areas including a rec room with games, barbecue facilities and so on. All units come with brand new appliances including dishwasher, range style cooker and large refrigerators. The prices are set very high with 1 bedrooms starting at around $3000 / month and the town homes going for around $5500 per month. 

The good news is that the deposit / downpayment on these leases will only be around $1000. The major downside is that you have to pay extra for parking at around $100 per month for a single space. Now, if the units were simply phenomenal with incredible fittings, top grade appliances and interesting features (i.e. Spa style bathrooms with hot tubs as standard or quirky architectural features such as exposed piping or brickwork or even funky tiling and carpeting throughout) but instead all the units that I saw are 'cookie cutter' at best with very average layouts, drab color scheme, mid-range appliances and basic fittings and fixtures

Now, I wouldn't gripe if the rents were much lower, but if I'm going to be paying $3000 for a one bed, then I want floor-to-ceiling windows, huge built-in closets, spacious master bedrooms, top-of-the-line appliances, sumptuous outdoor space and free bloody parking! I'd also want a gym or a spa. But, hell - if you can afford it and you want clean, modern lines with ease of use, turnkey and all the convenience of restaurants, bars and entertainment - then this could be for you. The strange thing is that I asked whether they had done some kind of deal with Google but was assured that Google had not pre-reserved any units nor that they were catering, necessarily, to that level of clientele. Well, whom are they catering to? My observation with Venice is this - Venetians LOVE craftsman cottage-style living. They love cute and vintage. They love hip and unusual and most of all they love things that aren't corporate, bland and cookie cutter. Apparently they have leased around 20% of the building already. But with the gala opening just a few days away, I'll be very surprised if they manage to lease out the whole place any time soon. 

So, what's the good news (apart from the fact that it's very 'green')? Well, as a local artist friend of mine said, who is also painting a fabulous mural inside of the apartment complex - "no one is going to care what goes on behind the gates of the complex"…all people are concerned about are what goes on curb side."

And this is the good news. The Frank has created a spacious, courtyard feeling to the street, with a wide European style sidewalk with trees and plenty of areas for outside patio dining (if the restaurants and city will allow it). #Piccolo are opening a new restaurant on the far east corner, #CafeGratitude is opening up on the far west corner, there'll be a hair salon and yoga studio and a tapas bar to boot. And with #Oscars opening up a new beer garden across the street besides his Burger Bar and Wine bar as well as the new Pizza Joint that is under construction on the other corner - The 5th-6th street block of #RoseAvenue is going to become a magnet for dining, drinking and socializing. As my wife pointed out - this could also do wonders for the over crowded beach bars which might become slightly quieter now and then the real Venetians can claim back the beach! 

Whatever happens, it's going to change the face of Venice in a big way. With pockets within pockets and something for everyone, Venice will become - virtually overnight - even more controversial, popular, frustrating and interesting. This is why I love Venice - warts and all.