BY BARRY LANK
CYPRESS PARK – Hidden behind ivy-covered walls, the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens is a compound of Spanish-style buildings clustered around courtyards dotted with fountains and shaded by large trees. Once part of the Lawry’s spice factory and a busy restaurant complex, the L.A. River Center is a popular spot for community events, especially weddings, and is home to some nonprofit groups, including the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which manages the grounds. But nearly 20 years after the city helped acquire the property, the authority has approached the city about preparing to upgrade the site and deal with deferred maintenance.
Councilman Gil Cedillo has introduced a proposal before the City Council to start talking with the authority, known as the MRCA, about ways “to redevelop or refurbish the property” located on W. Avenue 26 next to the Cypress Park Home Depot. Cedillo’s motion reads:“While the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens continues to be enjoyed by many visitors, the MRCA has advised the City that it does not have adequate resources to properly maintain the property grounds. Given the history and future potential of this important asset, the City should work with the MRCA to explore ways to redevelop or refurbish the property. As a first step toward this goal, the Council should instruct the Chief Legislative Analyst to meet with the MRCA to discuss possible options.”
The complex dates back to the early 1950s when Lawry’s opened a spice plant and headquarters, according to an L.A. Times article. By the 1970s, Lawry’s had added three restaurants to the property to cater to the thousands of visitors who toured the factory. Lawry’s California Center, which at one point attracted 50,000 visitors a year, closed in 1992. The city stepped in to acquire the property, blocking proposals for other industrial uses.
Dash Stolarz, the director of public affairs for the MRCA, said the complex now makes enough from weddings to cover regular maintenance. The question is, what about the big stuff – the deferred maintenance for decades old buildings ?
“How do we go forward?” Stolarz said. ‘Do we keep patching the roofs or do we replace the roofs?’ We just want to know … is there funding out there? Does the city have funding available? We’re trying to think responsibly.”
Councilman Cedillo’s office did not respond to questions for more details about the motion.
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