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Council selects proposal to turn former Rockhaven Sanitarium site into boutique commercial center and park

Rockhaven Sanitarium

The Glendale City Council on Tuesday chose a proposal to develop the former Rockhaven Sanitarium site as a boutique commercial center and park.

(Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

The future of the former Rockhaven Sanitarium in La Crescenta is now in the hands of a local developer after the City Council voted Tuesday to negotiate terms to transform the site into a boutique commercial center and park.

Sidestepping a committee recommendation, the council voted unanimously for a proposal by developer Gangi Design LED Build, marking the next major step in a more than eight-year effort to revitalize the location.

Gangi’s proposal will renovate 14 buildings for retail and nonprofit use. It offers no purchase price but plans to generate $50,000 a year for the city pulled from roughly $5 million in annual taxable sales.

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Following public proposals and feedback, a selection committee met over two weeks to assign scores to all seven developer submissions. Scores and subsequent ranks were awarded based on six criteria: dedication to preservation, creation of open space/accessibility, developer experience, compatibility with neighborhood, return on investment and use for community groups.

The committee ranked highest a 45-room hotel and amenities design by Avalon Investment Co. Gangi fell only a few points behind Avalon based mostly on its low score in the return-on-investment category.

Mayor Paula Devine took additional time to address her choice, which she said was not an easy decision. Devine said her vote was based on public feedback that included a mandate to not build a hotel, provide extensive public access and not cede the property to a developer.

“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,” Devine said. “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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Although impressed with Avalon’s design, council members Vartan Gharpetian and Zareh Sinanyan opted for Gangi’s proposal. Gharpetian liked Gangi’s inclusion for nonprofits, and Sinanyan approved of Gangi’s embrace of Rockhaven as a public space, along with other praise.

Initially, Councilman Ara Najarian opted for Avalon’s proposal, but eventually sided with the majority, resulting in a 4-0 vote. Councilwoman Laura Friedman was not present.

Representatives from Avalon, Brooks Street and the Lab, Gangi and Metro Investments addressed the council before the final vote.

“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. “We look forward to keep working with the community on it and bringing forward a community vision.”

Council members will soon enter into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Gangi to determine the feasibility of the project and its final design over the next six months.

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Jeff Landa, jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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