Rockhaven Sanitarium

Rockhaven Sanitarium, at 2713 Honolulu Ave. in Montrose on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / November 27, 2013)

The City Council called on developers to be imaginative if they want to partner with Glendale to bring new construction to a historic site in North Glendale.

"I want to open it up to anything. Creative minds: let's see what people can tell us," Councilman Dave Weaver said before the council unanimously voted on Tuesday to give developers a shot at proposing a project at Rockhaven, a former women's sanitarium that served patients such as Billie Burke, an actress who played Glinda the Good Witch in "The Wizard of Oz."

Glendale bought the roughly 3.4-acre site in 2008 for $8.25 million to save it from development, but as the city's finances shrank because of the protracted recession — Glendale officials forecast multiple years of deficits — the city plans to open the door to development as an attempt to preserve some of Rockhaven's historic character.

Officials had bought the site originally intending to preserve several historic structures as well as build a new library on the plot, but now the council is open to reviewing residential, commercial and even hotel developments.

"It's unfortunate, but I think we can make lemonade out of lemons here," said Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who encouraged developers to analyze both residential and boutique-hotel proposals that would incorporate turning some of the historic structures on the site into office space for market-rate businesses as well as nonprofit groups.

Rockhaven is bounded by Pleasure Way and Honolulu, Hermosa and La Crescenta avenues, and has a mixture of residential and commercial zoning. The site has about 1.2 acres of vacant parcels in the center bounded by historic structures and protected trees as well as a Glendale Water & Power well.

The site could accommodate a maximum of 123 residential units, if affordable housing is included, according to a city report.

Councilman Ara Najarian warned the city may have a difficult time finding a developer that can balance the preservation needs while still making a profit.

Several representatives of historic preservation groups, including the Glendale Historical Society, the Crescenta Valley Historical Society and Friends of Rockhaven, also supported taking this first step toward possibly developing some of Rockhaven.

Officials now plan to ask developers, starting on May 2, to submit statements of qualifications through July 2. The council is then expected to develop a short list and invite those who make the cut to pitch proposals.

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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