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12.02.2009
Battling Over Broad
As Beverly Hills formally reviews Broad art museum, Santa Monica gets in the game
Beverly Hills began the approval process for a new Eli Broad museum on a strip of land at the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards, though Santa Monica itself is now vying for the museum.
Courtesy Google Maps

Just when many thought that Eli Broad’s long-planned contemporary art museum in Beverly Hills was a goner, it appears to have risen from the dead, ushering in new intrigue along with it.

Last night, the Beverly Hills City Council approved plans to expand the draft environmental impact review (EIR) for the museum’s proposed site—the three-parcel, commercial-and-retail Gateway project—to include the museum option, beginning its formal move forward with the Broad scheme. But in a new twist, Broad is now speaking with the city of Santa Monica about his project potentially ending up there, pitting the two cities against one another in a battle for Broad’s affections.

The Broad Art Foundation’s original scheme, set for two of the three parcels on the Gateway—a project first proposed in 2007, and located on a thin sliver of land near the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards—was sent to Beverly Hills last fall. The foundation finally followed up with schematics sent to the city on August 15. Its newest proposal, delivered on October 12 and developed with help from Gensler, includes 43,365 square feet of gallery space, a reduction of office space from about 100,000 square feet to about 40,000 square feet, and plans for a 6,100-square-foot rooftop sculpture garden and a 9,755-square-foot outdoor public plaza at the east end of the site.

A massing model of the new museum prepared by Gensler. The building lies on a narrow strip of land along santa monica boulevard. (Click to enlarge)
Courtesy the City of Beverly Hills

The city’s expanded EIR, to be undertaken by environmental consulting firm Rincon Consultants, would cost Beverly Hills an estimated $105,000 to undertake, an expenditure that in itself is a clear sign of the city’s dedication to the project. “The city is certainly very interested in a public art museum of this caliber and prestige,” said spokesperson Cheryl Burnett. “Obviously we need to assess the impacts, but it would be an exciting addition to a city that is already an internationally recognized destination.”

If built, the museum would become the permanent home for the Broad Collections, which contain over 2,000 artworks, most of them contemporary. The building would also house a research and study center, as well as the foundation’s administrative headquarters. The foundation currently uses a renovated 1927 building in Santa Monica, housing offices and a gallery, which is only open by reservation and too small for the sorts of exhibitions Broad has said he would like to host. The shortlist of architects participating in a competition to design the project includes Thom Mayne, Jean Nouvel, Shigeru Ban, Rafael Viñoly, and Christian de Portzamparc. Some rumors have Mayne leading the field.

A section of the new museum. Its layout will likely remain, but the appearance will change considerably once a designer is chosen.
Courtesy the City of Beverly Hills

But while the project was forging ahead in Beverly Hills, intrigue was brewing in Santa Monica. At its November 17 city council meeting, the council approved negotiations with the Broad Art Foundation to build the project on a 2.5-acre parcel of land facing Main Street between the Santa Monica Courthouse and Civic Auditorium. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, city officials first met with Broad to discuss the possibility more than two months ago, and the foundation submitted plans for the project in October.

Under the proposal, which would entail amending Santa Monica’s Civic Center Specific Plan, the foundation would build and operate the museum, with the city’s costs limited to about $7 million, according to the city manager. Santa Monica committed to expediting the museum’s approval process while still “preserving full public review.”

Beverly Hills’ Burnett said that Santa Monica’s moves had not affected plans to go ahead with the museum EIR. Meanwhile, rumors have swirled that Broad is considering a third site within Los Angeles itself, but thus far no third site has been made public. The Broad Foundation could not be reached for comment.

Sam Lubell