The Villa Carlotta, a landmark luxury Hollywood apartment house built in the early days of the motion picture industry, has sold for $12.25 million to a Los Angeles investment firm that intends to renovate it.
The classic Spanish Colonial-style building in the Franklin Village neighborhood was built in 1926 for the widow of silent film pioneer Thomas Ince as a residence for Hollywood notables.
Past tenants in the 50-unit building included actor Edward G. Robinson, producer David O. Selznick, actress Marion Davies and architect Wallace Neff. Longtime resident Louella Parsons penned her popular gossip column from her two-bedroom town home there.
"This is a magical building with nearly 100 years of Hollywood charm and mystique," said Gidi Cohen, chief executive of new owner CGI Strategies. "Opportunities to acquire buildings like this don't come along very often."
CGI bought the four-story structure at 5959 Franklin Ave. from the Lesser family trust, according to public records. The Lesser family had owned the property since the 1950s.
Interest in the Villa Carlotta was heated among Los Angeles-area investors as Franklin Village has become a popular neighborhood for many Hollywood locals, real estate broker Paul Darrow of Marcus & Millichap said.
"A lot of people from out of state think Hollywood is Hollywood and Highland," said Darrow, who helped arrange the sale. "This area is away from the main core so it has more people, bars and restaurants. It's where locals come to play."
The Villa Carlotta was designed by Arthur E. Harvey, whose work included the nearby Chateau Elysee hotel, now the Scientology Celebrity Centre, the 14-story American Storage Company Building on Beverly Boulevard and the Selig retail store, a well-known Art Deco-style building at 3rd Street and Western Avenue.
The Villa Carlotta was designated a Los Angeles historic cultural monument in 1986. Its centerpiece is a 1,500-square-foot grand lobby with hand-painted coffered ceilings, detailed mahogany woodwork, marble statuary, a stone fireplace and original lighting fixtures.
The apartments wrap around a lushly landscaped courtyard with fountains and private seating areas.
"The Villa Carlotta is one of the Grande Dames of Hollywood buildings, an irreplaceable asset that has been untouched for the past 50 years," CGI Principal Adrian Goldstein said in a statement.
His company plans to perform a multimillion-dollar renovation that will include interior and common-area improvements, new building systems such as air conditioning and a rooftop lounge.
Upon completion of the renovation in 2015, CGI will reposition the building as a traditional long-term rental property and as an extended-stay inn catering to people in such fields as entertainment and digital media who are in Hollywood to work on a project.
Growth in those fields is creating jobs in Hollywood and driving desire for apartments among renters and investors who want their business, Darrow said.
"There is a very strong demand for quality and luxury product," he said, adding that buildings with a show-biz pedigree and pre-war charm are among the most desirable.
"We are seeing a lot of older buildings get more demand than newer ones," Darrow said.