Downtown L.A. is officially a contender for Eli Broad's art museum
Here's the latest installment in the courtship of Eli Broad -- and the art museum he aims to plunk somewhere in the Los Angeles Basin, complete with big-name architecture, a spiffy $200 million endowment and the 2,000 works of contemporary art held by his Broad Art Foundation.
Downtown L.A. is officially making a play, courtesy of the Grand Avenue Authority, which today authorized negotiations with Broad toward a possible deal that would wrest the museum from Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, which are also in the running.
After a closed session today of the Grand Avenue Authority, L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, a member of the joint city-county authority that's overseeing development of vacant land and parking lots in the heart of downtown's arts district, said it will deploy a negotiating team "to proceed with discussions with the Broad Foundation to consider his proposal and reach a mutual agreement."
The Grand Avenue project, of which Broad himself has been a leading advocate, is considered the centerpiece of downtown's revitalization. Designed by Frank Gehry, it includes two towers, condos, hotel rooms and a shopping center. The project, which involves public land and a private developer, stalled last year after the developer was unable to secure a multibillion-dollar construction loan amid the global credit crunch. A Broad Museum launch there would be a coup that could help rebuild momentum for the plan.
Until recently, Broad, who has painted a redeveloped Grand Avenue as L.A.'s answer to Paris' Champs-Elysees as a cultural hub, was a member of the committee overseeing the project on behalf of the Grand Avenue Authority. Officials said today that Broad had resigned from the committee in November in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interest as the negotiations move forward.
Broad has said that he deliberately has kept his options open for a museum site, hoping that competition will prevent plans from getting bogged down by bureaucratic delays in any single government jurisdiction. Beverly Hills was the first contender to surface publicly, in 2008, with talks centering on a parcel at Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard, and Santa Monica stepped forward late last year with what appears to be the most advanced plan: the City Council is expected to vote in February on a nonbinding "agreement in principle" that would allow the planning, permitting and environmental review process for the museum to go forward.
The basic outline of the proposed deal: the Broad Foundation would get a $1 a year, 99-year lease on 2.5 acres of city-owned land next to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, plus $2.7 million from the city in project funding and site-work. Broad would pay to build and operate a museum costing an estimated $40 million to $60 million to build and $12 million annually to run.
It would house at least 30,000 square feet of exhibition space for his collection, plus space for storing the art not on display or out on loan to other museums. The museum building also would include offices of the three-pronged Broad Foundations for art, science and education, which now occupy a 1927 vintage building in Santa Monica that lacks the parking needed for a public museum.
Jeffrey Deitch, recently announced as the next director of L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art, where Broad is the leading donor, is among those who have asked the billionaire philanthropist to locate his museum on Grand Avenue, where its cultural neighbors would include MOCA, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the rest of the Music Center, the Colburn School of Music, and the Los Angeles Unified School District's new arts high school.
Reiterating past statements from Broad's camp, Broad Foundation spokeswoman Karen Denne said today that “we are considering multiple locations and look forward to making a decision this spring.”
-- Mike Boehm, Ari B. Bloomekatz and Cara DiMassa
Photo: Artist's rendering of proposed Grand Avenue project. Credit: Grand Avenue Authority