Echo Park development may not be in limbo for much longer

The developer behind the stalled Durbin condos at Echo Park and Delta avenues said the development might be close to getting back on track as residents and business people have launched their own efforts to jump start the project. It’s been more than a year since construction on the 36-unit development came to a halt, leaving behind a weed-filled eyesore and the skeleton of unfinished garages framed in blue-tinted wood. Work also came to a halt on a nearby cluster of bungalows called Morton Village, which is owned by the same developer, Angeles Group. Adam O’Neill of the Angeles Group last year blamed the shut down on the failure and takeover of its construction lender, IndyMac, and other issues. The new lender, OneWest, has filed a notice of default but has not moved to take control of the Durbin, leaving the project in limbo. But that might soon change, O’Neill said in an interview this morning. “We are quickly coming to a resolution … hopefully very soon,” O’Neill said. “We have also met with the bank to address with them the need for weed abatement and to make sure [the property is] secure.”

But it still not clear how the issues surrounding the project will be resolved. O’Neill said the bank could take over the property directly or form a partnership with O’Neill’s group or others to finish the development. Making that decision will allow work on the Durbin and the Morton Avenue bungalows (which are not included in the Durbin loan) to move forward, O’Neill said. O’Neill did not say when a decision will be made, however. Last year, O’Neill told Curbed LA that “we expect to be back on track soon” but construction work remained at a standstill.

Some Echo Park residents, fed up with the lack of action at the Durbin and the bungalows on Morton Avenue, have stepped into the standoff between developer and lender. The Echo Park Improvement Assn., for example, has been working with Angeles Group and Council District 13 to “make sure the sites are maintained safe and secure,” said association member Andrew Garsten. In particular, Garsten said he wants toa make sure the bungalows on Morton Avenue “are not allowed to deteriorate.”

Meanwhile, Echo Park real estate broker Ken Shaprio has jumped into the fray. Shapiro, whose Silverwood Properties office is down the block from the Durbin site, sent an email blast to clients saying that investors could buy the $7 million loan on the property at a probably “very large” discount and “either finish up the project themselves, or partner up with someone else to do it.”

Shapiro, in an email exchange with The Eastsider, said he does not represent the lender or developer but sent out the email after sensing some interest in getting the project moving again. “The only reason I wrote the email blast last week was that my last conversation with the bank was the first time anyone there had given me even the slightest indication they were willing to talk about selling the note. I do have several clients interested in buying the note and completing the project, and we’ll see what happens over the next week or so.”

So, now it seems everyone is watching and waiting to see what the bank will do. O’Neill said he remains confident the Durbin will prove to be a successful development no matter who ends up completing it. “Echo park is a very divers and desirable neighborhood,” O’Neill said. “I think a project like Durbin is very viable even today’s market.”

Related story:
Weeds sprout where Echo Park condos were to grow. The Eastsider

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