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Plans to build the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Hollywood have been on the drawing board for years. The idea picked up steam in 2004, a full-time project administrator was hired, and a major fundraising effort was launched. But all of that was put on hold when the economy fell into a recession.
“We had made a great deal of progress in terms of planning and a number of aspects of what we intended to do, but it was always going to require a very significant fundraising campaign,” said Leslie Unger, a spokesperson for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
“Right about the time we probably would have started the campaign, the world’s economy took a rather drastic turn for the worst.”
The site for the museum is a seven-acre parcel bordered on the east by Vine Street and the west by Cahuenga Boulevard and Ivar Street, De Longpre Avenue on the north, and Fountain Avenue on the south. The property is abandoned with dilapidated buildings, rubble and overgrown brush.
The AMPAS would like to enter into a public/private partnership with the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), who would be the lead agency in the project. Their relationship remains unofficial for now. While plans for the museum are still in limbo, new developments to improve the site are underway. The CRA, which is still committed to the project, released a mitigated negative declaration regarding the upgrades on June 1. The document identifies mitigation measures aimed at reducing the potential environmental impacts of the upgrades to less-than-significant.
The public will be able to comment on the document until June 21, said Kip Rudd, a senior planner with the CRA.
Although numbers varied in the past, city documents show that the academy had planned to build a 150,000 to 250,000 square-foot museum that would have exhibition space, an amphitheater, a retail store, restaurant and other features.
At that time, the academy’s goal was to raise $350 million to $400 million.
Now, Unger said she can’t speak to whether that would be the same goal since plans remain on hold.
“It’s absolutely possible that what we end up doing there could be different than what we had begun to think we were going to do relative to the numbers of buildings, the sizes of those buildings,” Unger said.
If plans are approved by the city, the academy would pay for the short-term improvements – like demolition of buildings, upgrades of others, and landscaping – with money it already has, she said, adding she couldn’t speak to how much the upgrades would cost.
Rudd said AMPAS has said it would like to open the site in early 2012 to coincide with the Academy Awards, which will be broadcast at the end of February.
“I think certainly the community has an interest in the quality of the land, you know, the property near where they live, and the academy frankly has an interest in that as well,” Unger said. “We want to be a good community citizen and … I think that we understand that it’s appropriate for us to take some short-term measures to, you know, to be that good community citizen.”
The Homewood Foundation, the developer, would have the responsibility for fixing up the site and not the city, said Leslie Lambert, CRA’s regional administrator for the Hollywood and Central Region.
In a prepared statement, L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti said, “I fought to bring the AMPAS Museum to Hollywood because I felt strongly that it belongs in the entertainment capital of the world. When it opens, it will provide yet another reason for locals and tourists to come experience the revitalized Hollywood.”
Julie Wong, a spokesperson for Garcetti, said the councilman has long supported bringing the AMPAS museum to Hollywood and was involved with early discussions with the academy that led to its decision to select Hollywood as the museum’s home.
He helped facilitate dialogue between AMPAS and local business and community leaders as the proposal progressed, she said.
The property appears to be mostly deserted for now. On a recent Saturday afternoon, a parking lot at the site was empty.
For Giovanni Rubo, who lived in Hollywood for more than 50 years, the property looks bad to him.
“It’s an eyesore,” Rubo said. “You’ve got all these developments here and a revitalized community and everybody’s starting to put money into their buildings, and all of a sudden right in the middle of it you have this.”
Bill Dahlquist, a retired L.A. city firefighter, said he doesn’t mind how the site looks and thinks others don’t either. He would be thrilled if the museum is eventually built.
“It’s very, very positive, and I’ve never heard anything to the contrary in the few discussions that we’ve had here about it,” said Dahlquist, acting museum curator of the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Society’s Museum and Memorial, which is close to the academy’s site.
Dahlquist said he sympathizes with anyone trying to establish a museum.
“We were 25 years trying to get this place started, and most of us were thinking about it years before that. And sometimes it looked like we’d never get it,” he said. “I know the patience it takes and the pain and disappointment that sometimes occurs as you try to make your goals. But it sounds to me like they’re heading in the right direction and like they’re going to be successful.”
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