Construction Begins at Learning Center Site

Officials of the Puente Learning Center broke ground on a new facility Tuesday at a site where the nonprofit educational organization has been operating in temporary quarters since 1994.

A 20,000-square-foot, $5.7-million building at South Western Avenue and Century Boulevard will serve more than 1,000 students a day when it is completed next summer, said Suzanne Torgeson, the center's director of development.

Fund-raising efforts have garnered $3.6 million in donations from corporations, and foundations have contributed $3.6 million to the building project, she said.

The site was formerly occupied by an Arco station that was destroyed in the 1992 riots. A grant from the oil company allowed Puente to offer classes in temporary buildings for three years, Torgeson said.

Puente, which stands for People United to Enrich the Neighborhood Through Education, annually offers free computer-assisted classes to more than 2,000 students. One focus has been the teaching of English.

The group's first facility opened in Boyle Heights in 1985.

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