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Richard Neutra’s Jardinette Apartments are scheduled to sell at public auction

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But don’t pool your cash just yet

The Jardinete Apartments at 5128 Marathon Street in Hollywood.
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Richard Neutra’s first U.S. commission is scheduled to go up for public auction on Friday, but design buffs shouldn’t get their hopes up about an opportunity to own a piece of architectural history.

Owner Robert Clippinger, who is being foreclosed on, says he has worked out a “forbearance agreement” with the lender that gives his company more time to repay what’s owed on the landmarked Jardinette Apartments.

Public records show that as of October, the company, Cip Jardinette Holding LLC, owed $214,009 to lender ReadyCap Commercial. A foreclosure auction database shows that an auction of the property is scheduled for Friday.

Opened in 1929, the Jardinette, along with a house that Neutra designed in the hills above Los Feliz, was one of the first examples of the International style in the U.S. Located in Hollywood and built for movie industry workers, the design of the Jardinette is simple and boxy.

“It was a stark contrast to anything Southern California had ever seen,” write the authors of a 2017 historic resources report. “Even to today’s eye the Jardinette Apartments are startlingly severe with its lack of ornament, flat roof, and long planes alternating with banks of regular lines of steel-framed windows.”

Clippinger Investment Properties purchased the building in 2016, and the following year, announced plans to rehabilitate the now-vacant building.

A black and white photo of the four-story landmarked apartment building.
A 1950 photo by Julius Shulman of the Jardinette Apartments.
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)

It’s not clear how much the company owes now. It’s possible that additional payments and interest have added to the October amount. Clippinger says the forbearance agreement will allow him to work out “partnership issues” related to the property.

For those worried about an auction block sale of an iconic modernist apartment complex, those assurances might not be all that comforting. But the fact that Clippinger’s lender agreed to more time is a good sign.

Lenders usually agree to forbearance agreements when they are confident that the borrower has a good plan for paying back the money they owe, says Danny Guggenheim, a real estate law professor at USC’s Gould School of Law.

Guggenheim says that most lenders would rather get​ back​ the money they are owed than foreclose on a property.

Public records show ​the lender has already pushed back the Jardinette auction once—it was originally scheduled for February 28​. Lenders can postpone these kinds of foreclosure sales multiple times, and can do so at any time prior to the completion of the sale, says Guggenheim, who is also a partner with the Los Angeles firm Pircher, Nichols, and Meeks LLP.

The Jardinette rehabilitation has taken a while to get off the ground. In August 2017, a team that included preservation experts Barbara Lamprecht and June Street Architects presented a roadmap to rehabilitating the Jardinette to the city of Los Angeles’s cultural heritage commission. The report estimated the rehab would be complete in 2018. The “substantial” work it laid out included seismic upgrades, repairing and replacing windows, repairs to the roof, and waterproofing the building.

“Fate has not been kind to the Jardinette,” says Lamprecht. Maintenance completed in the decades before the current owner took over was done “at the cheapest level possible.”

That means, however, that the building is fairly intact overall. “There is a wonderful time capsule quality to the Jardinette,” Lamprecht says.

The Jardinette was built to house workers in the studios and film industry—not the stars. While rehabilitation will be expensive, she says she hopes the Jardinette can once again provide housing for people of modest incomes.

This is not the first foreclosure the property has weathered. Shortly after the 43-unit building opened, its developer went into foreclosure and left LA to avoid his debts, the report states. The building traded hands about once every 20 years after that.

Despite the financial troubles and delays, work is slowly progressing again.

In January, the city’s building and safety department awarded the project a permit for the rehabilitation. Clippinger says his company aims to put out a call for bids for the work in the next couple of months.