The new Mayberry?

The Americana also boasts 100 condos, starting at $700,000 and reaching as high as $2 million. As of this month, 20% of the apartments had been rented. The condos just went on sale and figures aren't available, though the Americana says it is delighted with the initial response.

"To the good life . . . " wails the sound system down below.

And that's certainly an issue. The crowds are sedate, but there is that music, which runs till 10 p.m.

"I didn't want to move in. I thought it would be too loud, too crazy. But I love it," says Levon Ketsoyan, who lives at the Americana with his wife, Marina, and 18-month-old daughter, Tatiana.

The three of them are eating pizza and watching the Lakers collapse on a flat-screen TV in the common area of the Marc building, as other residents trickle in after work.

It's an eclectic group, eventually maybe 25 people in all. These are the pioneers, the folks willing to give this place a try when no one was certain it would work. So far, they rave about the friendliness of the place, the activities, the concierge service.

"It feels like you're on vacation here," says one.

"They have Mommy and Me classes every Tuesday," says Tatiana's mom. "She has met lots of kids her age."

There are plenty of activities. The gigantic Barnes & Noble offers a writers group. There is yoga in the park. Live music fills the quad all weekend.

Despite such perks, it seems an odd place for a family, but our own 5-year-old is hooked. He likes the playground and the fountain shows that sprout twice hourly. We catch "Kung-Fu Panda" in the 18-screen multiplex -- a movie-lover's dream.

"People always ask if it's noisy," resident Fred Cuevas says. "Everything shuts down at 10. My wife and I have director's chairs on the patio and we sit there and have martinis. The only thing is I'm going to put on about 100 pounds, since we're right over the Cheesecake Factory."

On the warm evening, my date and I go for a late stroll and take our 5-year-old for a ride on a faux industrial-age elevator. We grab late dessert at one of the kiosks that are everywhere. (Try the pastries at Beard Papa's.) We wander back to our two-bedroom unit, one of the furnished models in the Marc building.

A little before 11, we fall asleep to the smell of soy sauce from the sushi joint below. But noisy? Hardly. This place is quiet as a monk's Christmas.

Hey, what happened to everybody? At 8 a.m., the streets are empty. No place to eat, nothing opens till 10. So we grab a cup of coffee and head to the playground.

Suburban geek that I am, I can't get past the fact that they're over-watering parts of the little park. The sprinklers spray like howitzers, leaving puddles in the sod. I realize they are trying to get this new turf to root deep, to withstand the hot weather.

In fact, this whole enterprise seems trying to root deep, to create a sense of permanence. So it's hard to be too critical of this wager on a more interesting and congenial L.A. lifestyle. It all seems so earnest, so well-intentioned. And certainly, such retail-housing combos are a trend we'll see more of soon, here and across the country.

Of course, some happenstance might be nice -- a real-life street musician, a squirrel or two, a bird. Rooftop community gardens would be a nice add-on at the Americana, as would a swanky little watering hole on the village green.

Mostly, what this instant city needs is a little time. Some people may prefer a perennially shiny new home. Me, I prefer the hum of real life, some patina, that lived-in look -- like creases in a fine old leather chair.

The Americana hasn't paid its dues yet. But as Dean Martin croons in the courtyard: If this ain't love, it'll have to do till the real thing comes along . . . till the real thing comes along.

Chris Erskine can be reached at For more columns, see


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