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Mayberry In the Remaking

Mayberry In the Remaking

As the eastward sprawl of new restaurants and boutiques budding along Rose Ave. makes its way over to Lincoln, a bygone era of manicured lawns and picturesque playgrounds is being revived and regained just a block east of the busy boulevard. More than 60 years ago, a utopian community was conceived of, developed and lived in ... it was called Lincoln Place.


Architect Heth Wharton and designer Ralph Vaughn’s vision realized, 1951.

“It was part of an FHA (Federal Housing Authority) promoted proliferation of garden apartments, especially after World War II, it was the ideal community planning idea,” says Steven Keylon, a landscape historian who lives at Village Green, another Los Angeles area garden city complex. Lincoln Place was part of a movement to add value to homes built for low- to moderate-income families. Nearly 40 acres of midcentury bungalow-style buildings with large areas of communal green space fostered neighborhood relationships.

Now, Lincoln Place is in the midst of a comeback. After more than two decades of lawsuits, courtroom battles that scaled all the way up to the California Supreme Court, and a victory for official historic status, Lincoln Place is halfway through a renovation to the tune of around $140 million. Eighty-three of the 100 tenants who were evicted during the process moved back into their refurbished homes last May. As the remaining units are remodeled and new ones are built, Lincoln Place has kicked up its marketing campaign with direct mail flyers and a billboard on Lincoln Blvd. in front of Benny's Tacos announcing that apartment homes are now available for lease.

“Units are selling like hotcakes,” says Patti Shwayder, AIMCO senior vice president. AIMCO became the owner of Lincoln Place, and Shwayder says they initially looked at a variety of options, including building new condominiums. “When the bottom fell out of the economy, that was no longer an option. We began to work with the community and appreciate the historic features, and put our past differences aside and said, ‘let’s do this.’”

About 65 units out of the existing 696 have had only minor updates, while the rest are undergoing total renovation. Additional bathrooms were built in some of the remodeled units, and a wall separating the living room from the kitchen was knocked out to create an open floor plan with eat-in quartz countertops. All of the old insulation was replaced and the units were modernized with wifi and cable hookups. An additional 99 brand new units will be built on empty lots. Since this is now a historic site, many of the aesthetics -- mostly on the exterior -- had to remain in tact. Single hung, wooden-framed windows were refinished and repaired on existing units and the same style will be used in the new buildings. The stucco facade and decorative cinderblock-enclosed patios will all be restored to original condition.

Units range from $1,969 to $3,793 and are pet friendly (deposit and monthly cost depends on type/size of pet). Complete renovation at the end of 2014 will also include a fitness center, rooftop social deck, saltwater pool and outdoor fireplace lounge. 

While many of these features are the norm for modern apartment living, take one step into the complex and it’s clear that Lincoln Place has something extra. The buildings are only one to two stories, and the communal green space remains. It feels more like a small town, rather than a block away from the constantly congested stretch of Highway 1.

“It’s specific and deliberate,” says Keylon. “You feel removed from the city. It doesn’t feel like LA, and it doesn’t feel like anywhere else. You have access to all the good urban things like shops, museums and you’re also sheltered.”

Unlike modern apartments, neighbors become friends instead of strangers who catch rare glimpses of each other on elevator rides.

“There are strong community bonds,” says Keylon. “When we moved in, neighbors came to our door to welcome us to the community. We look out for each other.”

The folks at AIMCO have also realized that Lincoln Place is more than just another condo; they’re working to create more greenery and give the residents back the 1950s dream neighborhood.

“It’s an amazing piece of property,” says Shwayder. “There’s open spaces for kids to play, and Elk Grove Circle will be activated as a green space and used for barbeques with benches and picnic tables. It’s really going to bring it back to the original characteristics.”

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