New Horizons facility delayed

GLENDALE — A new child-care facility for one of the city's largest nonprofit after-school programs for low-income children shows no sign of starting construction any time soon after years of planning and delays.

Construction on New Horizons Family Center's long-awaited "Children's Village Nuestra Casa" was to begin last spring after years of delays and hundreds of thousands in government funding. But months after the nonprofit's founder told city commissioners the project was about to break ground, the lot on the 1200 block of South Maryland Avenue sits unchanged.

The two-story project would expand child-care services for low-income families at the center, which has been grappling for years with how to accommodate growing demand and longer wait lists.

In March, New Horizons founder Maria Rochart told the Community Advisory Block Grant Committee that the project was finally scheduled to begin construction.

"You're all going to wear hard hats in April," she said. "The Children's Village is ready to break ground."

The statement came more than two years after Rochart secured a variety of zoning variances and environmental approval needed to move the project forward.

More than $200,000 in city federal block grant and economic stimulus funding has been spent on the project.

Rochart unexpectedly stepped down from her post as executive director of the center in April — citing potential conflict-of-interest concerns in her new role as a Los Angeles County commissioner — but said she would continue to guide the center's development as a paid consultant.

She could not be reached for comment. Angie Gonzalez, Rochart's replacement, did not return repeated phone calls for comment.

Gary Hopkins, president of Glendale-based George Hopkins Construction Inc., the project's contractor, said he did not have an updated construction schedule for the project.

"We're kind of waiting for them," he said Friday.

When speaking to the Community Advisory Block Grant Committee, which makes federal funding recommendations to the City Council, Rochart warned of a possible shortfall when requesting an additional $150,000 for the project.

"We might be short, and that's why we're here," she said, adding that she wanted to be sure she could "finish the project that we promised the city of Glendale we would come up with."

The City Council later fulfilled $40,000 of her request, bringing the project's total allocation of federal block grant and economic stimulus funding to $340,000.

Glendale Community Services & Parks Assistant Director Jess Duran, who monitors the project because of the federal funding, said it could still be finalizing construction financing.

"To our knowledge, they haven't started construction yet," he said. "If and when they do, my office would be the first to know."

Much of the funding allocated has already been spent on pre-development costs.

While the remaining funding does not have to meet the strict spending guidelines attached to federal social service funds, an extended delay could force the city to reallocate the money, officials said.

"If it's delayed too long, then we do have to reevaluate what we are going to be able to do with the federal funding," Duran said.

Further delays could also result in an expiration of the zoning entitlements and construction permits associated with the project.

The entitlements — which allow for less of a setback from the sidewalk and virtually no landscaping — are set to expire in October after the City Council approved a one-year extension last year, but will remain viable as long as the building permits remain active, officials said.

The building permits are set to expire in December after Glendale Building Official Stuart Tom approved a six-month extension, which could still be extended further, he said.

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