It’s been about a year since Hi Duk Lee opened a plant nursery next to Mi Alma Designs, a vintage home and outdoor accessories store, at the corner of Echo Park Avenue and Avalon Street. But instead of celebrating his nursery’s one-year anniversary, Lee is preparing to move out and so is Mi Alma after their rent was doubled and they were given 30-day notice to move out by the landlord, who owns the lot the two businesses share. Meanwhile, the property owner, who abandoned plans to build eight narrow homes on the property in 2011, last May applied for city permits to build seven, loft-style apartments with underground parking.
“We made this … lot something beautiful,” said Mi Alma owner Charlie Marder, who subleased part of the lot to Lee’s nursery business. “We put a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy into this. This sucks.”
Marder, who relocated his shop to Echo Park from Silver Lake in early 2011, concedes they had been behind in the rent but had been catching up after Lee sublet the lot for his business. But their relationship with the landlord, Jeremy Paige, remained rocky, Marder said. Their lease was not renewed. The rent was doubled to $6,000 a month and the, on Jan. 5, Marder was given a 30-day notice to move out, he said.
The Eastsider has contacted Paige for comment.
While there is a perception that Echo Park is “booming,” Marder said business along Echo Park Avenue remains very slow during Monday through Friday, with most shoppers coming by mostly on weekends. Under those conditions, a $6,000-a-month rent does not make economic sense for shop owners, he said.
Marder was welcomed by neighbors who had opposed Paige’s plans to build four-story homes on the lot, a former gas station. The permits pulled last May were for an approximately 11,200-square-foot, two-story building with seven apartments and underground parking. However, according to online city records, the permit remains under review and no permits has been issued.
In their final days as neighbors, Marder is preparing to move his business to a Craftsman-style building with outdoor space near Wilton and Melrose Avenue while Lee is moving his nursery to the Eagle Rock section of York Boulevard. Lee declined to comment.
Marder said his new location might offer greater opportunities to boost sales but he will miss his Echo Park location, where neighbors brought over homemade salsa and hung out. “It became home very quickly.”