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Demolition Averted : Life Begins (Again) at 40 for Valley Apartments

<i> Tia Gindick is a Woodland Hills free-lance writer</i>

It’s a classic case of recycling: Rather than demolish 18 apartment buildings in Van Nuys to accommodate construction of a 259-unit condo project, the Encino-based E & E Development and Investment Corp. is moving the apartments to a site in Sepulveda and refurbishing them for rental there.

Although considerably more expensive up front--E & E vice president Livius Bogdan figures the cost for moving and upgrading at $5,000 per unit compared to about $500 per unit if the buildings were demolished--E & E is looking for long-term savings. And perhaps some profits.

E & E President Emory Schwartz says he immediately thought of moving the apartments when he bought the 7-acre site at 14300 Chandler Blvd. 10 years ago. It’s taken him this long, he says, “because of the market.” However, from the beginning, “I could see the dollar signs up there. But also I liked the idea of not throwing away good buildings. If it were only four units, it would be different.”

The challenge of such a project also was a lure, the Hungarian-born Schwartz admits. He’s been involved in single- and multifamily development and construction in the San Fernando Valley area for 28 years, he said, but he’d never heard of a developer doing anything like this before.

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Obviously, it complicated things. In fact, as he and Bogdan, who is in charge of construction, got into the final stages of planning, they equivocated on whether to go through with the move--right up to the last minute.

“Somehow we decided to keep the apartments, though sometimes I wish we hadn’t. I’ll let you know when it’s all done,” Schwartz said.

The 40-year-old apartments are in good condition. The 155 units are larger than those built today, about 870 square feet for a one-bedroom, and will be newly upgraded to include central air conditioning, new kitchens and bathrooms. E & E will be able to keep rents competitive for the neighborhood--$550 to $800 a month, Bogdan said.

The first phase of Chandler Park Village construction calls for nine of the apartment buildings to be moved. Six, with 68 units, hit the road late last year and the final buildings have been heading toward the Sepulveda site at 8759 and 9024 Burnett Ave., this month.

While it would be easier to move the buildings whole, each is so large that it must be cut into sections. As a result, the whole process takes about a month.

There are worries. “It (a building section) can fall off the truck,” Schwartz said. “And the height, that’s a big problem with the overhead wire system they have in the Valley. We removed the roofs, but we still have to raise the telephone and cable TV wires. For this we pay the various cities a hefty fee.”

If all goes according to plan, the first phase of apartments will be moved, upgraded and ready for occupancy in one and a half to three months.

At Chandler Park Village, meanwhile, where townhouses and condominiums are priced from $144,900 to $200,000, two-thirds of the 78 units in the first phase are sold. Completion of this phase is expected in mid-May. Completion of the entire $45-million Johannes Van Tilburg-designed project is expected in 1990.

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