By DENNIS LARA-MEJIA
Boyle Heights — The 123-year-old Peabody-Werden House — aka The Blue House — overlooks the busy intersection of East 1st and Soto streets from the middle of an empty lot. The dilapidated and boarded up Victorian has sat vacant and fenced off for about two years now, awaiting a promised renovation that has yet to be realized.
The Blue House was originally located across First Street, where it faced demolition to make way for a new affordable housing project. But a strong and vocal social media campaign as well as residents and others urged the owner — the East L.A. Community Corp. — to move and salvage it. The nonprofit developer obliged.
This past April, a grand opening celebration was held for the 50-unit Cielito Lindo apartments in the 2400 block of E. First Street in the same place where the Peabody-Werden house had stood for more than a century. But across the street from the new apartments, The Blue House stood, untouched — hovering above the empty lot collecting dust in its new location.
“For us, having an empty boarded up building not being used to its full potential is not the greatest,” said Isela Gracian, president of the developer firm known as ELACC. “I know that we are working as diligently and efficiently as possible to get resources so that the community can start using the space.”
ELACC has experience working with old buildings. In fact, it was honored by the city’s largest historic preservation group for taking on thecomplicated and costly renovation of the landmark Boyle Hotel
at Mariachi Plaza into an affordable apartment complex.
The resources Gracian is talking about include loans and money necessary to fund the renovation of the Peabody-Werden House — named after a journalist and a bookkeeper — as part of the construction of another affordable housing development called Los Lirios.
Los Lirios will include an apartment complex with housing one the upper levels and retail spaces on the ground level, possibly facing the Soto Gold Line station across the street. One potential use that has been mentioned before for the Peabody-Werden House is to have it serve as a community center and meeting space.
Will the Los Lirios complex complement the one of a kind Queen Anne style architecture of the Blue House? “It won’t look exactly alike,” said Gracian, who said the new project will use modern and energy-efficient materials. Still, community members are encouraged to give their input at future meetings.
“By making [The Blue House] part of Los Lirios, it has allowed us to keep the property in Boyle Heights,” Gracian said.
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