SOUTH GLENDALE — Lomita Avenue resident Margarita Yeroomian was a regular at Maple Park, and so when signs went up announcing an overhaul, the anticipation was palatable.
On Thursday, Yeroomian brought her 2-year-old granddaughter Sofia to play at the park when she saw community leaders and city officials gathering to celebrate the groundbreaking of $3.5 million in renovations, featuring an overhaul of the community building.
Yeroomian said many of the park's regular visitors had read signs notifying them of the project and were eagerly awaiting the upgrades.
"Everyone is so excited," she said. "We really need them."
Thursday's ceremony marked the beginning of construction on the upgrades, which are expected to take about nine months to complete.
The Maple Park Revitalization Project is one of several construction projects set to begin this summer. Others include a major overhaul at Griffith Manor Park, upgrades to the historic barn at Deukmejian Wilderness Park and the long awaited walkway along the Los Angeles River.
At Maple Park, renovations to the park's 13,000-square-foot community building will include modernizing the second-floor gymnasium and adding handicapped accessible bathrooms and an elevator. A 5,400-square-foot addition to the building will allow for larger rooms and an expanded computer lab.
The project will also incorporate a variety of sustainable building elements, including a solar energy system.
Other upgrades include new picnic tables and trees for a park that sits in one of the most dense areas of the city.
"These proposed improvements and upgrades will be dramatically different," said Rodney Khan, chairman of the Parks, Recreation & Community Services Commission.
The project originally had $4.75 million in funding, with $3 million from the state and $1.75 million from the city's General Fund, but parks officials expect the project to come in under budget due to a highly competitive construction market.
The City Council in April approved a $2.5-million construction contract with AWI Builders Inc. that came in far below the original estimate for the work.
Mayor Ara Najarian called the site a "critical component" of the city's park system because of its location within a south Glendale neighborhood that is home to many high-density housing units.
In recent years, council members have tried to make a dent in the historic lack of park space in south Glendale, but without a large plot of land, their options have been limited beyond a few so-called pocket parks.
"Unfortunately, we can't always find the space and acreage for new parks," Najarian said. "What we can do is make the best use of the parks we have."