Echo Park may not be gentrifying as fast as you think *

It looked like Echo Park’s dining scene was about to shift into high gear when the owner of Silver Lake’s Cafe Stella said last fall that he was going to open a new restaurant called “Libre” in the historic Jensen’s Recreation Center. But Gareth Kantner’s ambitious plans to serve “Italian peasant food” and “tapas from around the world” in a cavernous “monastery-chic” interior have apparently fallen through. Several people have told The Eastsider that Kantner never signed a lease and the two spaces Libre was to occupy are still listed as available on the listing agent’s web site. Kantner has not returned calls and emails seeking comment.

Kantner is known as a hard-driving businessman who has helped transform Sunset Junction into a hipster hot spot. While Kantner appears to have dropped out of Jensen, two new tenants have apparently agreed to occupy space in the 1924 landmark, whose owners are restoring the ground floor exterior to their original appearance. One tenant is a retail store and the other a martial arts studio.

* Update @ 11:15 am: Leasing agent Dave O’Connell said the deal with Kantner is “at this point off” but would not say why. However, O’Connell said other tenants have signed up for other storefronts, including the owner of a small chain of vintage stores operator and the operator of a martial arts studio.

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