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Broad museum plan for downtown L.A. gets mixed reviews

April 30, 2010 | 11:09 am
When should officials give a billionaire a 99-year lease on city-owned land worth millions in downtown L.A. for $1 a year?

In the high-stakes game to land a grand art museum proposed by Eli Broad — the developer, philanthropist and political force — such enticements mark the going rate.

Broad has spent several years pursuing a Westside location for a museum to house his coveted 2,000-piece contemporary art collection. In recent weeks, however, downtown Los Angeles has emerged as a leading contender, competing with a lot in the Santa Monica Civic Center.

In return for the $1-a-year lease, Broad would pay for the museum's construction and fund a $200-million endowment to pay the facility's operating costs.

Downtown boosters say a Broad museum could kick-start the stalled $3-billion Grand Avenue project, although Broad himself acknowledges that the museum alone would probably not be enough to move the project forward immediately. The mega-development, which would include residential towers, a five-star hotel and upscale stores on land now owned by the city and county of Los Angeles, has been on hold because of the recession.

Critics of the museum plan scorn it as an unreasonable giveaway. They include at least one prominent elected official, L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, a longtime critic of the Grand Avenue project. He has questioned whether cutting such a deal with Broad makes sense.

"We're concerned about whether the taxpayers are getting the best deal that they could get for arguably the most valuable real estate in downtown L.A.," said Paul Novak, Antonovich's planning deputy.

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--Rong-Gong Lin II