L.A.'s Hip Atwater Village Celebrates a Century

LA Atwater VillageAtwater Village is one of Los Angeles' under-the-radar neighborhoods. Located in northeast L.A., next to Los Feliz and Silver Lake (and bordering Griffith Park, shown at left), it's an area bustling with people in entertainment, as well as other industries. The village is known for its tree-lined streets and classic California architecture, with many of its bungalow homes dating from the 1920s and 1930s. But for all it has to offer many Los Angelenos live there for its hip factor.

And it's not as if it's a fledgling community -- this Sunday, June 13, Atwater Village hits its centennial mark. The planned street fair to mark it's 100th anniversary will no doubt lure residents and non-residents.

Atwater is a beloved by those who make it their home, so we decided to take a look at what makes it so great -- and how it ranks in L.A.'s real estate market.

Most residents of Atwater Village say the same thing as local homeowner and television producer David Silver, "Atwater has a great vibe and it's friendly."

Caleb Dewart, a commercial producer and father of two thinks the best part of Atwater is that "it's a real neighborhood."

"We invite our neighbors over for kids' birthdays," he says. "I just wrote a book with one of my neighbors that I met while walking the dog. That doesn't happen in other areas."

According to the last census, the community has just above 14,000 residents. With tree-lined streets and early 20th-century homes, it has Glendale Boulevard as its hub.

Because many of the houses are original and over 70 years old, a lot of homeowners who choose to renovate do so while preserving their style. The effect is a charming, mid-century neighborhood with an authentic "village" feel.

Atwater has grown over the past decade into a hip pocket of L.A., with an influx of people in entertainment. Realtor Kevin Williams has seen the change firsthand. "I moved in here 11 years ago when it wasn't so nice. There were all these amazing casita and craftsman homes, and they were cheap," he recalls. "I knew since it was next to Silver Lake and Los Feliz that it would be up and coming, and indeed it's more trendy as the houses get fixed-up and the neighborhood improved. It's a nice relaxed pace here, and there's the river. It feels like home."

Dewart has seen the improvements since leaving West Hollywood and buying his house in 2002. "We put a lot of work in our home as well, and the retail portion of Atwater for sure has changed."

As for the locale culinary offerings, Dewart says, "Canale is an amazing restaurant, one of the best in Los Angeles for sure. But there are also the local spots that have been here forever, like Tacos Villa Corona that are great." Atwater Village is home to the Tam O'Shanter, L.A.'s oldest restaurant, operated by the same family in the same location. Opening in 1922, it was a hangout for film industry legends like Walt Disney, Mary Pickford and John Wayne.

Despite its well-rated restaurants, and an ever-expanding presence of hip food trucks, and cool bars like Bigfoot Lodge, Atwater Village flies under the radar. Dewart found out about the area because a friend of his wife lived there, and Silver found out the old-fashioned way -- via his real estate agent.

In 2005, Silver was living on the West Side and looking for a place to buy in Los Feliz and Silver Lake. "My Realtor suggested Atwater. Then I moved in and I ended up loving it for the diversity and restaurants. It's a little edgier too, and there is less traffic than I had before."

Kevin Williams of Kevin Williams Properties says, "The homes here are holding value more than other areas. If everybody knew about these deals, they would be here. A couple of my clients have bought four and five properties because the prices are modest and the area is so great."

Williams explains you can get a lot for your money in Atwater. "Usually you would have to go into areas that aren't great. Here you can start off buying houses for three, four or five hundred thousand," he says. "There are nice lots with lots of original character since many of the homes are from the '20s and '30s. There are also two and three on a lot, so you can rent out one and live in the other and have your mortgage paid for."

Atwater Village Newbie is a site run by a four-year resident of the area whose identity is unknown, "except to my mechanic and some neighbors that guessed from the pictures on my block."

Posting information about local happenings -- from food trucks to filming locations to art happenings -- this Atwater-lover wanted to pay it forward for people trying to find out about the area. Over e-mail with me, Newbie talks about discovering Atwater after moving from Colorado years ago and absolutely loving it. Isn't that neighborly?

Something tells me that with an appealing real estate market, a strong neighborhood vibe and lots to do (and eat) in the area, the secret won't be safe for long.

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