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Dream Center in L.A. expects $49.7-million grant

Operators of a former hospital campus known as the Dream Center expect to receive a $49.7-million federal grant to add more housing to their charitable operations in Echo Park.

The expansion marks a major milestone for the charity, which purchased the property formerly known as Queen of Angels Hospital for $3.9 million in 1996 and has worked since then to build a facility to help impoverished families, troubled youths and victimized women, some of whom might otherwise land in the penal system.

“It feels like we’re finally done,” Executive Director Matthew Barnett said.

The centerpiece of the Dream Center is a 14-story building completed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1926 that towers over the 101 Freeway today. Queen of Angels Hospital served the city until 1989, when its operations were moved to the newer Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in a merger.

Nine of the former hospital’s floors have already been converted to housing as part of $25 million worth of previous improvements to the 9-acre campus. The New Markets Tax Credit grant, expected to arrive Monday, will enable the Dream Center to turn the five remaining floors into additional housing for adults in recovery from substance abuse and families facing homelessness.

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Improvements should be complete by March, Barnett said, and raise the number of residents at the Dream Center to more than 900 from 650. Among those served are emancipated minors and young female victims of human trafficking.

One of the key decision makers who approved the federal funds for the Dream Center was Deborah La Franchi, president of Los Angeles lender National New Markets Fund, which is among those authorized by the U.S. Treasury to allocate tax credit money. The money comes from investors who receive credit toward their income taxes by funding the New Markets Tax Credit, a federal program intended to spur revitalization in low-income communities.

“Two things really impressed us” about the Dream Center, La Franchi said: “how they are serving the poor and the breadth of their programs — the new programs they are developing.”

Federal tax credit funds were also allocated to the Dream Center from other sources, including the nonprofit Opportunity Fund in San Jose, Chase New Markets Corp. and the Los Angeles Development Fund, established by the city.

“I know this expansion will be a blessing for those most in need,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.

Work begins on Bob Hope Airport transportation center

Construction has begun on a long-planned addition to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank intended to link airline passengers with other means of transportation.

The $72.7-million facility is being built on a former parking lot on Empire Avenue across from the Bob Hope Airport Train Station served by Amtrak and Metrolink.

The 520,000-square-foot Bob Hope Regional Intermodal Transportation Center will include a three-level parking structure for rental cars, a rental car customer service building and a bus station. The bus station will serve local and regional bus lines and accommodate shuttles to the subway station in North Hollywood and the Metrolink station in downtown Burbank.

An elevated covered 1,100-foot moving walkway will transport rental car customers and bus passengers to and from the airport terminal.

“This project will reduce traffic and promote use of alternative public transportation while providing a state-of-the-art rental car facility for our airport patrons,” Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority President Chris Holden said.

The facility is being built to withstand a strong earthquake and will serve as an emergency response center in the event of a disaster, said Andy Liu of contractor McCarthy Building Cos., which is building the project. It is set to be completed in summer 2014.

A separate $8.5-million parking structure is being built at the airport to replace more than 1,000 parking spaces eliminated by the new transit facility.

roger.vincent@latimes.com


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