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Eli Broad museum site gets preliminary city OK, but a rival arts use suddenly emerges

July 15, 2010 |  1:34 pm

EliBroad09 A potential roadblock to Eli Broad's plans for a downtown museum housing his contemporary art collection sprang up Thursday while he was en route to securing a unanimous OK from commissioners of the city Community Redevelopment Agency to plant a $100-million facility on publicly owned land.

Now vying for officials' consideration is a rival plan to build a 3,000-seat theater and training center for a tradition-steeped Chinese performing arts company on the same parcel at Grand Avenue and 2nd Street. Behind the proposal is Shen Yun Performing Arts, which has brought shows to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Orange County Performing Arts Center and other major venues and says it will stage more than 400 performances this year in 30 countries.

Shen Yun's spokesman, Shizhong Chen, briefly presented its plan to the CRA/LA board during a 20-minute hearing at the Central Library that preceded the board's vote in favor of the museum, which may become known as the Broad Collection, a la New York City's Frick Collection. Chen complained that Shen Yun had tried since February to present its proposal to the redevelopment agency but was ignored.

Now, he said in an interview after the vote, the group will try to make its case to the remaining government bodies that have to sign off before Broad can start building the museum -- the Los Angeles City Council, the county Board of Supervisors and a Joint Powers Authority of city, county and state officials that's in charge of the $3-billion Grand Avenue project.

Lot Shen Yun wants the museum site to be thrown open to competing bids, under the same principle under which government authorities chose the Related Cos. in 2004 as developer of the overall Grand Avenue project. Because the original Related plan is being changed to accommodate the museum, Chen said, the same competitive process should take place for that parcel. Asked whether Shen Yun might sue to stop the museum if officials don't reopen the site for development bids, Chen said, "we'll have to evaluate our situation."

Chen made a two-minute appeal to CRA officials during the hearing, and they did not respond. Broad said afterward that it was the first he had heard of the performing arts proposal. Broad said that there's no need to open competitive bidding for the parcel, because the museum is a subset of Related's overall development plan and falls under the development umbrella created during the public process that led to Related's approval as developer.

Chen said that a Shen Yun center would be a bigger magnet for downtown visitors and economic activity than the art museum, which Broad hopes will draw 200,000 or more visitors each year. A written proposal Chen gave to the redevelopment commission calls for a 1.5-million-square-foot complex with traditional Chinese architectural features. It would include a high-rise office building and housing for as many as 1,800 students who would live there while training to join three different touring Shen Yun dance troupes.

Here's the full story.

-- Mike Boehm

Upper photo: Eli Broad. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin  Los Angeles Times

Lower photo: The lot at Grand Avenue and 2nd Street. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (12)

UGH. I saw Shen Yun at the Music Center, thinking it was going to be all about traditional Chinese dance. The whole time, the theater-goers were subjected to nothing but propaganda about their Falun Gong cult! Three-quarters of the theater left at intermission, and I had half a mind to leave as well. Let them build the damn thing somewhere else.

As a former MOCA employee, I can say that there is no way Broad's museum is going to attract 200,000 visitors a year. There simply aren't that many people who are interested in art either living in, or visiting Los Angeles on a yearly basis. It would be great to have a Shen Yu facility across from MOCA. It would compliment the Colburn School and further expand the diversity of the area in terms of being a location for world class performers and artists.

Sounds great. Why not put the building on an empty lot in China town just a few blocks away?

I agree with Doug, put the Shen Yun thing in Chinatown so we can focus our architecture Downtown.

Broad's Museum sounds wonderful. I hope this odd "issue" doesn't slow it down.

Broad has PLENTY of venues for his artwork in LA, since he controls LACMA and MOCA already. He's just looking for FREE OFFICE SPACE, and frankly, he can afford office space since he's a billionaire, so why is he trying to rip off LA when we are firing teachers and police??? How about paying fair market value for rent?

I don't care if it's a Chinese Theater or something else, but that space needs to MAKE MONEY FOR THIS CITY. No more "sweetheart deals" for Big Developers!

There is no potential roadblock as the museum site is no longer owned by the CRA and the CRA can not legally ask for bids on a property it no longer controls.

Related was awarded the rights to develop the property and has pre-paid its lease payments. Related also had the right to give control of part of the Grand Avenue project site to a cultural organization - but Related could only get $1 a year if they did so, even though Broad just agreed to give the CRA over seven million dollars for his museum's use of the site.

The only reason CRA had any involvement is that since the CRA has approved other uses for that site, Related needed the CRA's approval to change the usage of the site from retail to a museum. And Related received that approval today.

The CRA today only had the legal right to say yes or no to the proposal - or attach some conditions to how the non-profit selected by Related developed the site. And they did so by requesting Broad build a large parking garage (which he didn't want or need) and that he would give the CRA the option to later buy the garage from his foundation at his costs.

And, again, the CRA had - and has - no legal right or ability to ask for bids to develop a property after they have legally transferred that property to another entity. So the request to have a new bidding process demonstrated a lack of understanding of the legal status of the property.

Additionally, the Chinese proposal far exceeds the square footage that would be allowed on the site. Their proposal includes that a both commercial office building and housing for up to 1,800 students, besides the proposed cultural facility. And this would be physically impossible to do since a high rise residential building is still being built by Related on the rear portion of this site.

Shen yun is part of the fa lun gong religious group, considered a cult by many.

I don't want to criticize a project I haven't seen but why exactly would a training facility attract visitors? The Colburn is a great school but it does not attract visitors and most of the students drive home right after class.

A facility with Chinese architecture? Really? Bring cohesiveness to downtown and go with the Broad project.

Broad's project is aimed at being something for the entire community. This Chinese performing arts training center seems a bit more exclusive.

The City Council should consider that in their deliberations.

Just because someone does not believe in someone's religion, have some respect and don't call it a cult.

not sure about the chinese troup and their agenda, but nothing is more cultish and exclusive than contempt "art". How about a Cirque du Soleil site? Alreeady have a three ring circus with MoCA and dead celeb kowtowing.

Put a museum in Watts, thats the center of LA, and far more people in southern LA County than the sheltered westsiders. No more important work of art in LA than Nuestro Ppueblo.

One way to attract 200,000 or even 1,000,000 visitors to Broad's proposed new museum is to make it free to the public and let him foot the bill, after all, he has more money than 3/4ths of all Angelenos together...


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