It will be nearly a decade before visitors will be able to stroll above one of the city’s most iconic corridors while checking out the world’s best art, but every project has to start somewhere. The public review process for arguably the biggest development project on Museum Row started last week with a scoping meeting for LACMA’s renovation that includes a plan to bridge the museum over Wilshire Boulevard.
The plan – the largest public cultural project ever attempted in Los Angeles – is to replace four existing buildings and replace it with a new state-of-the-art facility. In April, LACMA’s director Michael Govan said the design of the renovation may be debatable, but the need for new structures is not. He said skylights have fallen in and they have had leaks in the buildings and had to close galleries and empty storage spaces when it rained.
The new plans to transform LACMA’s campus come from Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The major obstacle is adding a bridge to connect the museum’s main building to LACMA-owned property at the southeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Spaulding Avenue. Crews will remove facilities and exhibit space from the current campus and put it on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard. That will free up approximately 2.5 acres on the north side for open space. The bridge-section of the building over Wilshire Boulevard will display exhibits and artwork and offer views of the boulevard in both directions. To increase accessibility, Zumthor’s designs include a transparent exterior and open plaza. The new building will cost less to operate than the existing campus and will utilize solar panels.
At approximately 368,000 square feet, Zumthor’s building will reduce the museum’s overall size, but will make twice as much art accessible to visitors.
Miranda Carroll, director of communications at LACMA, said the cost to fix and refurbish the four existing buildings would be almost equal to erecting Zumthor’s designs. The current budget over 10 years is $600 million.
Los Angeles County has already given its full support to the redesign, and will commit approximately $125 million, or one fifth of the total goal. In April, board members Elaine Wynn and A. Jerrold Perenchio donated $50 million and $25 million, respectively. The fundraising campaign will start later in the process. The new and improved LACMA is scheduled to open in 2023.
Carroll said the scoping meeting on the project’s impacts went very well and that approximately 170 people attended. The questions and comments submitted will help build the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). The DEIR will specifically spell out the project details and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The Miracle Mile Residential Association (MMRA) sent in questions and comments for the project, specifically in regard to the bridge and the Ogden parking structure. The project is adjacent to a large condominium complex and close to multi-family buildings that are involved in the pending Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. In a letter to the county of Los Angeles – the lead agency for the project – James O’Sullivan, president of the MMRA, said the unorthodox designs present potential threats to the integrity of the residential community south of Wilshire Boulevard. Since the expansion would take up the only remaining available space left in that pocket of Museum Row (because of the La Brea Tar Pits to the east and the Academy Museum to the West) the MMRA wants to ensure that future expansion plans wouldn’t include the demolition of multi-family buildings. The group also asked about shade, wind, security, noise, construction and other potential impacts on the community.
The MMRA pointed out that Wilshire Boulevard is celebrated as the “Fifth Avenue” of Los Angeles and that the Miracle Mile has been designated by the city as a “Scenic Highway.” The air rights over public streets are owned by the public. The air space over Wilshire belongs to the citizens of Los Angeles, he said. The group asked what the value is and if the city will be compensated.
Carroll said those questions are part of what will be looked into to create the DEIR. Potential lane closures due to construction will also be determined later. The MMRA also said the county needs to take into account the construction the community has endured and is expected to continue for years.
“The residents of the Miracle Mile are already in a state of exhaustion and chronic irritation over the construction impacts of the ongoing Purple Line Extension and Academy Museum, as well as the recent renovation of the Petersen Automotive Museum – and the construction of several other large apartment and condominium projects throughout the community,” the letter read.
Carroll said LACMA will wait for the Academy Museum to open in 2018 before their construction begins.
More opportunities for public participation will be provided. For information, project updates and to send in comments, visit buildinglacma.org.
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