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Dream Center charity to expand facility with $49.7-million grant

August 26, 2012|By Roger Vincent
  • The Dream Center's campus is a former hospital complex in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles.
The Dream Center's campus is a former hospital complex in the Echo… (Dream Center )

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

The expansion marks a major milestone for the charity, which bought the property for $3.9 million in 1996 and 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, which was completed in 1926 by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart and now towers over the 101 Freeway. Queen of Angels Hospital served the city there until 1989, when a merger moved its operations to the newer Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.

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 for families facing homelessness.

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

One of the key decision makers approving 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 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 San Jose-based nonprofit Opportunity Fund, 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.

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