Culver City undergoes an extreme makeover

Helms District is now the new swank center

A few years ago, Kimberly Ventre, president of Helms Bakery anchor H.D. Buttercup, would have sounded as if she’d been hypnotized by the Culver City Chamber of Commerce. “Culver City,” she says, “is set to become the epicenter of style and fashion in L.A.”

Culver City? The bedroom community best known for the Sony lot and stucco homes? Where the streets are deserted after sundown and you can’t find a real restaurant?

That’s the one — or rather, that’s what Culver City used to be.

Smashbox Studios was the center of the recent L.A. Fashion Week. The area has its first destination restaurant with Beacon, in a corner of the Helms Bakery complex. Former Chadwick’s owner Ben Ford is preparing to open his new restaurant, Ford’s Filling Station, on Culver Boulevard. Another reason not to roll up the sidewalks at night: the Actor’s Gang Ensemble Theatre moves to the historic Ivy Substation in May.

Surrounding all of this activity are humble-looking homes, but appearances are deceiving.

“Five years ago, we hadn’t hit the $1 million mark, but now there are million-dollar homes all over the place,” says Judy Storm, a realtor at Cavanaugh Realtors in Culver City. That’s especially true in desirable areas such as Carlson Park and Culver Crest, which Storm calls “the Beverly Hills of Culver City.”

Next month, condos are expected to break the $1 million mark for the first time with the release of six live-work lofts in the MODAA Lofts development on Washington Boulevard, two blocks east of Helms Bakery. The development will also have a restaurant and wine bar called Wilson’s, after its chef, Michael Wilson, formerly of 5 Dudley in Venice.

“We expect to set record prices in Culver City per square foot,” says Sabine Gebser, an associate broker with Venice Properties. Prices will start in the $900,000s.

Mike Deasy, a partner in Deasy/Penner & Partners in Venice, says the area’s history as a light manufacturing district makes it attractive to professionals who need flexible, creative spaces that a bow-truss ceiling can provide. He also cites a thriving art gallery scene, centered on La Cienega Boulevard, as creating an “artist’s colony.” He expects to see multiple loft developments in the next few years, similar to the ones cropping up in Venice and Marina Del Rey.

All this, and Culver City is small. An independent city of about 40,000 residents, Culver City has its own school district, fire and police departments.

Next year, the MTA plans ground-breaking for a light rail system that would link downtown L.A. to the intersection of Venice and Robertson boulevards. The project is expected to be completed by 2009 or 2010, to be followed by an extension all the way to the beach. By the time it’s built, however, Culver City residents may have no reason to leave their neighborhood.

MODAA Lofts 10716 Lugo Way
5923 Hill Rd.
MODAA Lofts
Helms District, Culver City
10716 Lugo Way
Culver Crest, Culver City
5923 Hill Rd.
Culver Crest, Culver City
Designed by SPF:architects, the six for-sale lofts can be customized for 1 BD/1 BA or 2 BD/2 BA. Each unit has five parking spaces and a separate entrance that can be used for business. Interiors feature polished concrete floors, glass tiles and high ceilings. Located on a cul de sac, this 3,200-sq. ft. home has 4 BD/3 BA and a pool. It features a formal entry and dining room, gourmet kitchen with walk-in pantry and a master bath with spa tub and shower. Two-story ranch-style home. 3 BD/2 BA, with a living room that opens to a backyard with a pool and views of the city and the ocean. Same views in upstairs loft-style BR, which has a high, wood-beamed ceiling. Remodeled kitchen w/ granite counters, hdwd floors through most of the house.
Listing price: From the $900,000s Listing price: $1.5 million Listing price: $1.195 million
Contact: Sabine Gebser
Venice Properties
(310) 399-1123, ext. 188
Contact: Karen Dolce
Dolce & Associates
(310) 390-9041
Contact: Martin Feinberg
Coldwell Banker-Westwood/Westside
(310) 442-6110
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