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Neighborhood Spotlight: Larchmont, a once-modest hamlet, finds broad appeal

Los Angeles has always been a refuge for Midwesterners flocking west in search of better weather and better jobs, and although the influx continues to this day, the flood of Chicagoans and Clevelanders was at its peak in the first half of the 1900s.

That’s when Julius LaBonte, recent transplant from the Midwest, bought a home in one of the well-to-do subdivisions south of Paramount Studios and decided that what this newly established neighborhood needed was a good, old-fashioned Main Street.

So inspired, he set out to create a neighborhood shopping and business district that would serve as the heart of newly built Windsor Square, a tract of homes that formed the nucleus of the belt of mansions that would stretch from Koreatown to the Miracle Mile.

Soon after he assembled the necessary land on Larchmont Boulevard, a thriving district boasting an array of banks, a grocery store, a bookstore and a movie theater appeared, and the city soon connected this new Main Street to the trolley system via an extension of the 6th Street line toward Melrose Avenue.

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On the north end of Larchmont Boulevard, a more modest neighborhood (less than half a mile square) consisting of bungalows and apartment buildings — and conveniently close to the studios — developed, taking the name of the boulevard that defined its western border.

Kali, a trendy Larchmont destination.
Kali, a trendy Larchmont destination.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times )

It wasn’t where the moguls lived: They were all south of Beverly Boulevard or north of Sunset Boulevard. This was the neighborhood for the costumers, stagehands, payroll accountants and continuity supervisors.

Today those more modest homes can go for well north of $1 million, if they still exist at all. Like many close-in neighborhoods of smaller homes, Larchmont is seeing a wave of mansionization in the western end of the district. On the eastern end, apartment buildings and condos dominate.

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The continuing popularity of the neighborhood shows that Angelenos want to live close to Larchmont Boulevard now more than ever, because people do walk in L.A. — as long as there’s something worth walking to.

Neighborhood highlights:

Main Street, U.S.A.: A great example of the lasting appeal of L.A.’s streetcar-oriented shopping districts, Larchmont Boulevard is dense, walkable and has good coffee and ice cream, trendy boutique fitness studios and restaurants.

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Renters welcome: Historic bungalow courts and walk-up apartment buildings sit side-by-side with massive new apartments, giving renters plenty of options.

Wining and dining: The formerly dowdy stretch of Melrose Avenue east of Vine Street has developed into a destination for food and drinks. Try Kali for contemporary American or Pour Vous, a Parsian cocktail lounge.

Neighborhood challenge:

Here come the McMansions: The trend of modern boxes built out to property lines and towering over their neighbors has spurred the city to look for ways to reduce the number of tear-downs.

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Expert insight:

Serge Tran, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Larchmont, said home buyers gravitate to the neighborhood for its central location, easy access to the 101 and the 10 freeways, and for the friendly small-town vibe that is most readily seen at the weekly farmers market on Sundays.

“It’s not a tourist attraction like the Hollywood one,” he said, “but one where neighbors go to as part of their weekly routine.”

Larchmont also boasts a “great diversity of housing stock,” with options from entry-level condominiums and town houses to large homes. Although some of the single-family homes are expensive, prices tend to go down the farther east you go, particularly east of Van Ness, he said.

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The Larchmont farmers market.
The Larchmont farmers market.
(David Karp / For The Times )

Market snapshot:

In October, the median sale price for single-family homes in the 90004 ZIP Code, based on 14 sales, was $1.48 million, according to CoreLogic.

Report card:

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Within the boundaries of Larchmont is Van Ness Avenue Elementary and Frances Blend Special Education Center, which scored 848 and 869, respectively, out of 1,000 in the 2013 Academic Performance Index.

Nearby schools include Harvard Elementary, which had a score of 829, and Hubert Howe Bancroft Middle, which scored 764. Helen Bernstein High scored 634.

hotproperty@latimes.com

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