Updated 6:25 pm: The Richard Neutra-designed Kronish House is just about two weeks out from demolition, according to Ronald Richards, who handles legal affairs for the limited liability company that owns the house. We found out a couple weeks ago that the owners had decided to bring the Kronish down; as the LA Conservancy has rallied to save it, the Beverly Hills City Council will consider stepping in tonight. We visited the property yesterday to find out just what's at stake--the house is rundown and has some seriously insensitive additions. A preservationist tells us it's savable, but Richards says that no one wants to buy it as-is.
Soda Partners LLC, made up of members of two Beverly Hills families, bought the Kronish in January for $5.8 million, and Richards says they never had any indication that the house was significant. They bought it for the land value--the house sits on two acres off of Sunset, right next door to Madonna's place--and they've been trying to sell it since April, asking $13.995 million. The house itself is bigger than we'd heard before--it has "Home Depot" additions that brings the original square footage of 6,891 up to 7,900.
Beverly Hills doesn't really have a preservation policy, so it couldn't stop the house from being altered and it's not really clear if it can stop the demolition now. But preservationists are still pissed at the city for allowing John Lautner's Shusett House to be demolished, and it seems like they've been loud enough now to get some attention. Tonight, the city council will consider asking staff for a Kronish House-protecting "urgency ordinance."
But Richards says the house isn't even full Neutra, more like 40%. Mid-century restorationist Josh Gorrell disagrees, saying it's probably more like 65%. Gorrell has visited the house twice--once as a potential buyer and last weekend with a group that included Neutra's son Dion, which went to document the house. Gorrell helped restore Neutra's Kun House and is working on rebuilding the architect's Von Sternberg House, so he knows his Neutra preservation, but he hasn't seen the original plans.
According to Richards, the house was in the last owner's family for decades--the owner's mother lived there most recently, but didn't use the whole thing. Richards says that when his clients bought the property it had been stripped and was left a mess--eight dumpsters of trash were hauled out and there was medicine from the 1940s in one of the bathrooms.
Duncan Elliott, who owns the company that will deconstruct the house if a demolition permit is issued, says "It's probably, in my opinion, one of the worst homes I've seen so far." He says it has water damage and mold, the air conditioning and electrical are shot, and it's possible that the pool and roof are both leaking. There's also asbestos in the stucco.
Richards says that plenty of potential buyers--both preservationists and plain rich Los Angeles types--have been through the property, but no one is interested in fixing up the house (Gorrell says he doesn't have the money to buy it). Adrian Scott Fine, the director of advocacy for the LA Conservancy, says they've been hearing from people interested in the Kronish who didn't know it existed before the recent media buzz over the demo. Richards says there have been no offers made in that time and that potential buyers would rather have the empty and prime piece of land than a Neutra house in bad shape.
If an owner did pick up the Kronish, Elliott estimates that it would cost about 600 per square foot to bring it back from the brink--that would be somewhere in the $4.1-$4.8 million range. (Updated: We spoke with Elliott while he was driving today and he says he mistakenly gave us the wrong numbers originally. He adds that he is not a builder and the estimate is based on his conversations with contractors who work in Beverly Hills.) Richards says that multiple people who've come through the house have thrown out the number $8 million, but Gorrell worries that's too high and could scare off potential saviors. He estimates restoration at $1-2 million, stressing that "The bones are still there."
Meanwhile, Soda Partners, which bought the second loan on the house, has been paying to service the first loan every month and prepping for a demolition. Under ordinary circumstances, as soon as the property is ready, the city will grant a demolition permit. Richards says the Kronish House should be ready to go in about two weeks.
· Neutra-Designed Kronish House Looks Headed For Demolition [Curbed LA]