Plan for $100M Contemporary Art Museum in Los Angeles Gets the Green Light

Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, home to a bevy of internationally respected cultural venues, will soon become the site of a new contemporary art museum now that philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad have obtained the final requisite approval for the development known as The Broad Collection.

August 26, 2010
By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

Eli and Edythe Broad

Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, home to a bevy of internationally respected cultural venues, will soon become the site of a new contemporary art museum now that philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad have obtained the final requisite approval for the development known as The Broad Collection. The 120,000-square-foot project will cost between $80 million to $100 million to realize.

The Los Angeles City Council, the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had already pledged their support for The Broad Collection so, with the Broads’ newly obtained thumbs up from the Grand Avenue Authority, the project can proceed to the next step.

Architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro is designing the Broad Collection building, which will serve as both a public museum and the headquarters of The Broad Art Foundation’s global lending library. The facility will feature 50,000 square feet of gallery space, art archive and storage space, study space, a 200-seat lecture hall and a retail museum store. Additionally, in recognition of the dearth of parking accommodations downtown, a three-story parking garage will be incorporated into the design.

Over a period of three years, the Broads also considered project locations in the Los Angeles County cities of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica before settling on downtown Los Angeles where land for the project will be leased at a cost of $7.7 million.

Given the current state of the economy, museums are not popping up as frequently as they did a few years ago. “The cultural market as a whole is suffering greatly,” Ronald A. Street, Principal and Managing Director of Ardmore, Pa.-based project management firm NorthStar Museums, told CPE. NorthStar Museums provides services as a liaison between a museum and the many different partners involved throughout the design and build process. “Most museums are encountering much higher demands with fewer staff members. They raise money through capital campaigns, but there are more people vying for fewer philanthropic dollars. As for any type of government funding, those resources are thin.”

While financial challenges have impeded museum development, certain facility types continue to obtain backing. “The ones that seem to be doing okay–okay is the new norm–are the children’s museums,” he said. “The children’s museum market is actually flourishing because, from the perspective of parents and educators, it provides a quasi education through play. They’re based on educational items, so there’s always the underlying educational component to play.”

However, as is the case in the commercial real estate sector as a whole, the good news is limited. Just as most retail shops are faring poorly compared to discount chains, most museum types are faring poorly compared to children’s destinations. “Natural history museums are really struggling by virtue of simply not being able to raise dollars. Science museums are doing a little better; they can gain more money through research grants because of the research performed at their institutions,” Street noted.

Since the development of new contemporary art museums is not exactly a common endeavor these days, The Broad Collection project carries the distinction of being an exception to the rule in the presently lackluster economic climate. “It is kind of unusual for someone to develop a museum because they have the financial resources to do so,” Street said. “It’s unusual that you get a single donor to fund an entire institution. It’s extremely rare.”

Construction of The Broad Collection is on track to commence in spring 2011 for completion late 2012.