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Newsmaker of the Year: A fresh start for Rockhaven

After the city of Glendale purchased the former Rockhaven Sanitarium in Montrose for $8.25 million in 2008, a lack of community consensus and a slow economic recovery stalled efforts to revitalize the 3.4-acre campus.

This past February, the city again sought a viable strategy to renovate Rockhaven by issuing a request for design proposals from developers who could protect and preserve the historic nature of the site — originally built in 1923.

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Seven proposals were submitted. A project from developer Gangi Design LED Build that would transform the former sanitarium into a boutique commercial center and park was ultimately selected.

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"We didn't know what to expect, but we're so excited about it, to turn [Rockhaven] into an activated park space and cultural site," said Matt Gangi, principal lead on the Gangi proposal, when the selection was made. "We look forward to keep working with the community on it and bringing forward a community vision."

Similar to Gangi, three other proposals from developers offered similar boutique projects, with differences in how much space would be allocated for a park. The three remaining designs proposed to revert Rockhaven closely to its original use as a medical/mental health facility.

A city selection committee originally recommended that council pursue an agreement for a 45-room hotel with amenities designed by Avalon Investment Co. The choice was based on scores and subsequent rankings given according to various criteria.

However, in the end, City Council members voted unanimously for the Gangi design, which would allow the city to keep ownership of the property.

The city's next steps will be to enter into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Gangi to determine the feasibility of the project and the final components of the selected design over the next few months.

Gangi officials refer to their project as "Rockhaven Historic Park," transforming 14 of the 15 buildings on the site for retail and nonprofit use. It would provide a traditional park for the community that would include a "farm-to-table" garden on the property.

Art galleries, studios, food carts and retail shops would fill the 14 spaces. The remaining building would be home to the Friends of Rockhaven Museum.

""I selected Gangi for an important reason, mainly because it satisfies my goals for Rockhaven and, more importantly, the desires of the majority of our community," Glendale Mayor Paul Devine said during the meeting when the selection was made. "I feel that Rockhaven is a jewel in our community … so I really feel that the city needs to retain ownership of this property."

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Jeff Landa, jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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