Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Chapter 2 (Part 2): The Race for The Broad – A Tale of Three Cities

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“I think what Santa Monica has to offer is an incredible audience, a prime location and willingness to work with the Broads.”[i] – Kevin McKeown, Santa Monica City Councilman

Within just a few months of BCAM’s opening at LACMA, rumors began to circulate that Eli Broad had been less than forthcoming about his true intentions.  Contrary to his initial denial of it, at the end of 2008 local newspapers began reporting Broad intended to build a new museum for his collections in Beverly Hills.[ii]  The City of Beverly Hills quickly identified a prominent parcel of land at the intersections of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards for the project. An architectural competition was announced, a short list determined (Thom Mayne, Jean Nouvel, Shigeru Ban, Rafael Viñoly and Christian Portzamparc), and schematic renderings of the site plan were even published. [iii] If this speedy development seemed too good to be true, it’s because it was.

Mass Modeling Rendering for Beverly Hills Site by Gensler.

Mass Modeling Rendering for Beverly Hills Site by Gensler.

By the end of 2009, Broad announced that there were actually multiple cities vying for his collections and a new museum building to house them. Beverly Hills, previously unchallenged was suddenly competing with the City of Santa Monica, and Broad’s foundation announced there was also a third, unnamed city in the running.[iv]  This of course turned out to be the City of Los Angeles.  Broad said he wasn’t, “trying to play the two [three] municipalities against each other […] he hope[d] that by talking to several different cities he c[ould] accelerate the process of building.”[v]  But play them against each other he did, for six months, trying to secure the best deal.

The offer from Beverly Hills required the City to purchase a long triangle-shaped plot of land (not a vacant lot) and lease it to Broad for $1 for 99 years.  Beverly Hills also wanted to use the parcel of land for a mixed- use project, which required a 273-space parking garage.  Beverly Hills would not pay for the design or construction.  Still, Beverly Hills had been the first proposed site, and was willing to negotiate.  The initial proposal from Beverly Hills called for the inclusion of 100,000 square feet of office space (additional revenue for the city). The Foundation responded by reduced the office space element to 40,000 square feet and added a 6,100 square foot sculpture court for its use.[vi]There’s no better place than Beverly Hills to showcase this world-class contemporary art collection,” said a Beverly Hills spokeswoman.[vii]

Santa Monica was offering to pay $1 million towards the design and construction of a new museum building, which would be located on land the city already owned next to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and lease the land to Broad for $1 for 99 years.  The City of Santa Monica would also provide the upkeep of landscaping and offer parking (the perennial make-it-or-break-it element in Los Angeles).  Santa Monica would also eliminate permit costs and pay for the environmental impact report (EIR), which is a requirement in California.  In exchange the City would get the collections and a new museum paid for mostly by Broad.  (A possible sale of the existing Broad Art Foundation building to the City would also be negotiated.)  Financially, the Santa Monica deal was better for Broad.  “I’ll do everything I can to make this happen,” said Santa Monica city councilman Kevin McKeown.[viii]

And the victor is…

It just burns me that people are saying they’re giving me, a billionaire, $1 a year for nothing, without looking at the public benefit that’s being created, without thinking of all these children that are going to go there free of charge and all of the other benefits.”[ix] – Eli Broad

Beverly Hills, the initial player, was the first to drop out of the race; Santa Monica held out for a while.  It now seems crystal clear that both the City of Beverly Hills and the City of Santa Monica were pawns used to leverage a sweeter deal out of the City of Los Angeles for the parcel of land Eli Broad most desired and for a price he was determined to get.

Eli Broad's site.

Eli Broad’s site.

The particular parcel Broad was eyeing was a grossly (and conveniently) vacant lot, which sat immediately across Grand Avenue from MOCA and immediately south of Walt Disney Concert Hall.  A city-owned parking lot occupied the site – Broad and the City of Los Angeles wanted to change this.  The lot had been laid aside for Phase 2 of the Grand Avenue Project, but the Project was not going as planned. In anticipation of any conflicts of interest Broad had resigned from the Grand Avenue Committee in 2009.[x] Another proposal for the site, a garish, 17-story, Chinese-inspired, Shen Yun Performing Arts Center/Fei Tian building, was never seriously considered, as it was ridiculous.[xi]

Broad was going to get the land; the only issue remaining was for how much. Broad was pushing the City to lease the land for $1 a year for 99 years, the same offered by Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.  This is a common lease agreement between non-profits and cities on city-owned land: MOCA’s two downtown locations lease parcels of land from the City of Los Angeles for $1 a year, and the Norton Simon Museum has the same arrangement with the City of Pasadena.[xii] The public and some city officials were having none of it: why should the City give this valuable piece of land to a billionaire for practically nothing?[xiii]  In July of 2010, Broad announced a compromise: he was willing to pay a total of $7.7 million over the course of a 99-year lease.[xiv]  The new proposal came two days before the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and the City Council were to vote on the museum project.

The City approved Broad’s revised plan. While Broad did not get the lease deal he originally wanted, he did manage to get the city to agree to use CRA funds to partially construct the project.  $30 million in CRA funding would pay for a three-story parking garage that would sit beneath the museum.  (The parking garage is an essential element of the design because it elevates the museum’s structure to street level where it can face both Disney Concert Hall and MOCA.)  Broad would front half of the money for the garage and the City would pay him pack over the course of 11 years.[xv]  Broad contribution included paying for the design and construction of the museum (up to $100 million), and endowing the museum with a $200 million operating endowment.

The remainder of the summer of 2010 was a whirlwind of announcements from the City and from Broad.  A name for the museum project—“The Broad”—was chosen, a thirteen-member board of governors was formed, the architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro was appointed, and their design for the museum with a cast-concrete skin was revealed with much fanfare.[xvi]  Some said the building looked like a honeycomb, some an air filter, still others said it looked like tripe.  Elizabeth Diller dubbed the building, more elegantly, “the veil and the vault.”[xvii] Construction of the parking structure began almost immediately, and the Broad Art Foundation even set up a live construction webcam for the public to view the building’s progress.[xviii]

Eli Broad at a press conference for "The Broad."

Eli Broad at a press conference for “The Broad.”

The parking structure was completed in February 2012, and construction of the museum followed without delay.  However, a major development might complicate this fast-paced schedule.  Although Broad is paying for the construction of both parking structure and museum up front, the CRA might not be able to repay Broad the agreed upon portion of the parking garage bill ($30 million).  This is because the CRA no longer exists.  California Governor Jerry Brown eliminated all of the State’s Community Redevelopment Agencies in 2011.  The issue with the CRA portion of the funding of the project remains unclear, and is a topic that will be discussed at length in a following chapter.  At the moment the demise of the CRA isn’t slowing down the pace of construction, thanks to Broad’s healthy checkbook.  Broad, who turned 80 this year, told the LA Times, “I’m impatient…I’m not getting any younger. We don’t want this to be a memorial building.”[xix]

Broad’s influence reached previously unknown extents with these complicated dealings.  Comparatively, LACMA and MOCA’s arrangements with Broad were simple, though they will feel the effects of his philanthropy on their missions for years to come. With this latest eponymous museum, instead of changing existing organizations’ missions, Broad is changing the mission of a whole city.  Not only will Los Angeles have a new contemporary art museum, it will also have new development.  This is the underlying logic with the placement of the Broad, to lure investors to the stalled Grand Avenue Project.  The massive implications for urban planning are on a wholly new scale.  The ramifications affect City, County and State. Whether the benefits justify the costs remain to be seen, and wont be able to be analyzed in any meaningful way for decades.

The Broad in progress.

The Broad in progress.

[i] Mike Boehm, “Cities compete for Broad museum: Santa Monica and Beverly Hills vie for the billionaire’s art center as plans expand,” Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2009.
[ii] Rudy Cole, “Election Notes and a Possible Museum for BH?,” Beverly Hills Weekly, November 11, 2008.
[iii] Sam Lubell, “New Broad in Town: Contenders for LA art patron’s new museum revealed,” The Architect’s Newspaper, January 21, 2009.
[iv] Mike Boehm, “Cities compete.”
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Sam Lubell, “Battling Over Broad,” The Architect’s Newspaper, December 2, 2009.
[vii] Mike Boehm, “Cities compete.”
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Rong-Gong Lin II, “Broad Museum plan for downtown L.A. gets mixed reviews,” Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2010
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Dakota Smith, “Better Look at Chinese Palace Proposed for Grand Avenue,” CurbedLA, July 16, 2010, la.curbed.com/archives/2010/07/better_look_at_chinese_palace_proposed_for_grand_ave.php.
[xii] Rong-Gong Lin II.
[xiii] Ibid.
[xiv] Mike Boehm, “Eli Broad offers $7.7 million for art museum lease, not $1,” Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2010.
[xv] Ibid.
[xvi] Ibid.
[xvii] Mike Boehm, “The Grand Plan for the Broad museum,” Los Angles Times, January 6, 2011.
[xviii] Broad Art Foundation, “Construction Webcam,” broadartfoundation.org/construction_webcam.html
[xix] Mike Boehm, “The Grand Plan.”

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  1. […] National Park with killer views of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, and the Bay. Lucas must be reading Eli Broad’s museum-building playbook: After Lucas’s proposal was rejected he threatened to take his museum and collection to another […]

  2. […] between Chicago and San Francisco that Lucas has orchestrated is exactly what Eli Broad did when he played Santa Monica and Beverly Hills against the City of Los Angeles so that he could get a better deal and the Downtown location he […]

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