Crescenta Commons

With Mike Claessens left, looking on Frank Paschal, right, carries a large rock at the Crescenta Commons Gathering Spot construction site at Rosemont and Orange in La Crescenta. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / August 30, 2014)

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A well-known dirt lot on the corner of Rosemont and Orange avenues is being transformed into a new community fixture in La Crescenta with help from dozens of volunteers.

Named the Crescenta Commons, the beautification project will be comprised of several features including a centerpiece — a stone sundial.

For the past few weeks, the site has been cleared for a granite pathway, stone benches and future vegetation during workdays coordinated by the Crescenta Valley Town Council, said Robbyn Battles, the council's president.

"The spirit of the community is overwhelmingly positive," Battles said. "To see it break ground and visible signs of its happening. Everyone is really excited."

Michael Thelen, a Crescenta Valley native, dug trenches for a future irrigation line during a volunteer workday last month. His wife, Lisa, and his two sons —Michael and Jacob — joined him.

The family lives nearby and noticed volunteers at the site over the past few weeks, which prompted the family to walk a few blocks from their home on Upper Terrace to help.

"It's also important for our kids to understand the importance of community," Michael Thelen said. "They can say, 'I helped make this place better.'"

With the trenches that Michael Thelen and others dug, Crescenta Valley Water District will oversee installation of water lines, Battles said.

The location of the Crescenta Commons rests on what many dubbed "the gathering spot." It's where parents like Kevin Cordova-Bradley drop off and pick up their children at nearby Monte Vista Elementary School.

Cordova-Bradley worked a few feet away from the Thelens, clearing plants and debris.

"Even my kids referred to it as the 'dirt lot,'" Cordova-Bradley said. "It's going to be nice to drive to the stop sign and see something beautiful. It's going to be a nice area for people to use."

And the project has been three years in the making. A local Boy Scout originally proposed developing the land as a project, Battles said, but Crescenta Commons took on a life of its own thanks to local architect Ines Chessum, who suggested the sundial as the project's centerpiece.

Inside the sundial will be placed a time capsule, which will hold a 75-foot scroll that local residents can sign.

Roughly $7,200 in donations has helped bring the site to fruition.

Another funding source is 175 handmade tiles that are available for purchase for $100 each. They will form a circle around the sundial, and each tile will bear a customized message across three lines. Roughly 30 have been reserved, so far.

"We feel this is something that is a lot of fun for the community," Battles said.

But some hope Crescenta Commons, which is slated to be unveiled in mid-October, will be more than just an upgrade from a dirt lot. Battles said the site could be a learning experience for area students, noting the sundial.

For Cordova-Bradley, Crescenta Commons will leave a legacy.

"This corner has been an eyesore for years," Battles said. "This is the heart of the community, and some say, 'Finally, after decades, it's going to be something.'"

For more information about Crescenta Commons or to donate, visit thecvcouncil.com/crescenta-commons/.