Echo Park -- Renderings of the large complex that would rise on the site of Taix restaurant generated quite a stir last week. Opponents objected to the loss of a local landmark to make way for a six-story residential and retail project that they say is way too big for the neighborhood. Meanwhile, others defended the Sunset Boulevard project as one that would provide needed housing.
Only fragments of the Taix building will be included in the new complex (a smaller version of Taix will occupy a part of the complex). But restaurant owner Mike Taix says very little of the one-story current building is actually historic or worth saving.
Walk in the front door entrance on Sunset, and starting about fifteen feet to your left, there was nothing there before 1969, Mike Taix said. For that matter, everything to the right has been remodeled more than once - often gutted.
And if the building looks like a throwback to the 1920s, Mike Taix said that’s because he deliberately set out to make it look that way. When he remodeled it in the 1980s through the 2000s.
Back then, the building otherwise had a mid-century look that didn't fit with the restaurant's theme of "Country French Cuisine since 1927." (That's the year Marius Taix Jr. first started serving food at the Champ d’Or hotel downtown. The Taix family moved to the current location in 1962.)
Holland Partner Group, which bought the Taix restaurant building and adjacent parking lots for $12 million, is planning to build a six-story complex with 170 units of housing and 13,000 square feet of retail commercial space.
As originally presented last year, the new project was to incorporate more parts of the current building, including the porte cochere on the north side, where cars currently drop off guests under a shelter (though this porte, too, was a later addition to the building, added in 1969, Mike Taix pointed out).
But as the development process moved forward, each part of the current structure was evaluated for use in a functioning business, according to Tom Warren, executive managing director of Holland Partner Group.
"Meeting with stakeholders - a number of them, including Mike (Taix), kept getting questions of why? Why are you keeping this?" Warren said.
But apparently there are many people who do want to keep it -- or at least part of it -- as is. "Nothing is sacred as our neighborhoods sterilize under the guise of housing no one can afford," said one Twitter user.
The Echo Park Historical Society* has announced its opposition to the project as currently presented. Meanwhile, an online petition to save the Taix has attracted about 2,000 supporters while the Silver Lake Heritage Trust is raising money to have the building declared a historic monument.
"This proposal shows a basic lack of respect for this Los Angeles legacy, its devoted community, and the architectural continuity of our historic neighborhood," says the petition.
In the end, two main items from the existing restaurant are in the design for the new development: The cherrywood bar top that also dates back to 1969, and the large red-and-white sign saying "Taix," which may date back to the early 1960s, and which will remain more or less where it is, facing east along Sunset - but now placed at the very top of the new complex.
And it shows. This is a terrible project demonstrating Holland Partner Group’s contempt for the citizens of Los Angeles and for the long history of Taix French Restaurant as a cultural landmark and Echo Park community hub. #SaveTaix #ThisPlaceMatters https://t.co/eKlkGEW9eE— Esotouric's Secret Los Angeles (@esotouric) May 20, 2020
Aesthetics could be improved, but the project includes a bunch of Affordable and market rate housing that doesn’t exist in the area and doesn’t displace anyone, since it’s taking over a surface parking lot/restaurant. But also, Taix is going to reopen as part of the development.— Patrick - Reminder: POTUS appoints justices/judges (@pjrocks) May 19, 2020
The restaurant itself will shrink from its 18,000-square-foot footprint to just 6,000 square feet. Renderings show large windows opening to a lot of natural light, and Mike Taix is hoping for outdoor seating - a very different style from the old-school, largely windowless experience of the current restaurant. A pedestrian walkway is also to cut through the site at the ground level, linking Sunset Boulevard to Reservoir Street.
The new design has a great advantage over the current building, says Mike Taix. "The model it’s in now doesn’t work," he said. "It just doesn’t work."
The banquet rooms that used to host service groups now sits largely empty. The parking lot, in the age of Uber, is mostly vacant as well, and is attracting homeless squatters.
"Every square foot has to generate something," Mike Taix said. "We can’t have square yards and square yards of space not generating anything."
* Jesus Sanchez, publisher of The Eastsider, is a member of the board of The Echo Park Historical Society.