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Councilmember Richard Alarcon held a Holiday Open House in the Children's Museum building in Lake View Terrace, CA Monday December 21, 2009. The museum project is on hold after it went bankrupt. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)

LAKE VIEW TERRACE: The lights are still on, but nobody's home at what was to be the San Fernando Valley's children's museum.

Eight months after the Children's Museum of Los Angeles filed for bankruptcy and abandoned its $52 million playland project, city officials hope to create a new museum especially for kids.

And residents hope the cavernous shell at Hansen Dam Recreation Area can be devoted to little boys and girls.

"It's everybody's tax dollars," said Steve Negrete, 60, of Lake View Terrace, watching his grandchildren play on a city parks playground next to the hulking museum site. "I see them filming movies there all the time.

"I think we need more recreation for the kids."

The former children's museum was to open next year in the 57,000-square-foot wedge-shaped building on city land at Osborne Street and Foothill Boulevard.

But the museum declared bankruptcy in April after failing to raise $27 million needed to open its doors.

Years of weak fundraising, staff turnover and a sluggish economy contributed to its demise. But it was a $10 million pledge withdrawn by Sherman Oaks investor Bruce Friedman, who faced allegations of investor fraud, that led to final bankruptcy.

Now city officials say the clock is ticking on $15 million in bond money and local and state grants that would vanish if the site were used for anything but a children's museum.

In addition, the city has already spent $10


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million to see it completed. But what looks like a white elephant at Hansen Dam is being used for little else than film shoots. Councilman Richard Alarc n also hosted his annual holiday party at the facility last week.

"It's one of my top priorities for 2010," said Alarc n, whose district includes the museum site. "My goal is to continue the dream of establishing a children's museum.

"(But) we've still got a lot of work to do."

Alarc n said his office has been studying whether to establish a separate city entity akin to the Los Angeles Zoo to run and raise funds for a new museum.

Or the city could contract with a private entity to open a museum for kids.

He said the California Science Center has been broached about possibly running a children's museum.

And he said he's excited about talks now under way with the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana about opening a Lake View Terrace site.

"They are interested, and they're really good," Alarc n said. "It's a pretty amazing place. It's Camila tested," he added, referring to his nearly 2-year-old daughter.

He said much needs to be worked out about how to fund the museum. He'd also like to see a community room built into a new museum.

Parents who remember an "opening soon" sign at the museum said something needs to be done for children in the Northeast Valley.

Asked what they'd like to see at the former museum site, they said they'd like to see a children's community center, with enrichment programs in gymnastics, art and music.

They dreamed of roller rinks, ice rinks, arcades and food courts. A jumper park. An indoor soccer field. A place for mommy clubs to meet. Or a space museum for their kids.

"Because I have two little ones, how about an indoor play center for (young) kids?" asked Oscar Vazquez, 22, of Panorama City, playing with his 2-year-old son, Matthew, at the Hansen Dam playground. "Something for a rainy day.

"We don't have anything like that out here. We need something like that out here. We can fill it up, with all the people here, and have a safe place for kids to play."