CIVIC CENTER — Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has chosen downtown Los Angeles over Santa Monica as the site to house his extensive contemporary art collection after a decision by the Grand Avenue Authority on Monday to approve his plans for the project.
Broad had already received approvals from the Los Angeles City Council, the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to build in Los Angeles. The authority’s decision was the final approval needed from a governmental agency.
“Influencing our decision was my commitment to downtown Los Angeles over the past 30 years, including my role as founding chairman of MOCA in 1979, our work with Mayor Riordan to construct the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the High School for Visual and Performing Arts, and my prior involvement with the Grand Avenue Project,” Broad said in a letter to Santa Monica City Manager Rod Gould.
“We in the city are not terribly surprised because Mr. Broad has telegraphed for a number of months now his preference to build a museum in L.A. because it would draw more visitors in L.A. and help revitalize L.A.’s downtown,” Gould said. “We continue to believe ours was the superior site and he could build here faster. We wish Mr. Broad and L.A. the best and congratulate them both.”
As part of the deal, Broad will pay L.A.’s Community Redevelopment Agency $7.7 million to lease the land and will endow $200 million to the Broad Art Foundation to cover operating expenses. They are expected to spend between $80 and $100 million to build the museum and an underground parking garage.
“Our heart is on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. This is our gift to the city that has been so good to us,” Broad said. “We would like to extend our thanks to the city of Santa Monica for their generous offer and extraordinary willingness to work with us as we considered our options.”
In March, City Hall offered Broad a deal some thought would be more than enough to attract him to Santa Monica.
The approved “agreement in principle” offered to expedite the project’s planning and entitlement process, contribute $2.7 million to the museum and lease the site for the building for a 99-year term at $1 per year.
However, despite financially advantageous terms, Broad’s decision to build in Los Angeles did not surprise city officials.
“I felt that three months ago that he was not going to come to Santa Monica,” Councilmember Bob Holbrook said.
“I just think he’s been so integral with the development of downtown L.A. He’s been doing business with L.A. for so many years … the pressures to stay there became paramount,” Holbrook said.
Although disappointed with Broad’s decision, Councilmember Richard Bloom said he is excited to see the collection stay within Los Angeles and is hopeful that the completion of the Exposition Light Rail Transit Line will make it easier for Santa Monica residents to enjoy art.
“We should be excited about what’s happening in Santa Monica and what’s happening in downtown L.A.,” Bloom said. “We’re an important city in the region, but we’re part of a larger community as well.”
As to the future of the 2.5-acre lot the Broad museum left behind, city officials are planning on evaluating other options.
“I’m sorry that he didn’t choose Santa Monica, but I wish he and his wife well. We plan to move forward and there are some other opportunities,” Holbrook said. “Santa Monica is still considered a very desirous place to locate such a feature.”
Holbrook mentioned at least two other parties who have personally contacted him interested in creating a museum in the civic center, including a butterfly museum.
“We haven’t considered anything formally at this point. There have been discussions around other possible ideas. I’m hoping some creative ideas will surface in the near future,” Bloom said.
The 120,000-square-foot museum is expected to be built across the street form the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Museum of Contemporary Art on the southwest corner of Second Street and Grand Avenue, and will be designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
The Broad Collection will serve as a public art museum and headquarters of the Broad Art Foundation’s lending library. The building is expected to house a lecture hall, museum shop and sky lit galleries featuring notable artists such as Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Roy Lichtenstein.