One of the things that has made Echo Park such a rich place to live is that is was poor for such a long time: no one tore down old gas stations and old houses in an effort to cash in. As I said before, the place felt like a small town that had been overlooked – in fact, forgotten -- in the midst of a big city. Buildings were readapted by economic necessity, not for environmental politics (not that there is anything wrong with readaptation by choice).
So the old art deco style gas station at 1901 Echo Park Avenue never was torn down. It has been many things, including, recently, a gang hangout/dwelling. It appeared to be older gang members, and they were quiet. For the past couple of years it was surrounded by mobile homes and canvas-covered chain link. A high-end tile-makers’ studio was built behind it about four years ago. The artists create both modish modern designs and re-creations of Batchelder-type arts-and-crafts tiles, beautiful and in-sync with one layer of Echo Park: the bungalows of the 20s and 30s. Recently the tile-makers – one who was planning to move to London, the other who comes from Germany – sold their studio and the former gas station to a developer, who plans to build condos.
In the meantime, this week I started seeing changes. The cotton weeds were chopped down. A sofa appeared and then disappeared. Then there was a sky blue Mercedes maybe five or six years old. Today, I met a guy named Depak (he says his parents were into Depak Chopra) who was getting set up in the space, which is now to provide vegetable oil for diesel engines.