Thursday, February 08, 2007

Business Plan For LA Museums!

Whether it's the LA River, affordable housing - or new museums, the one thing no one in LA seems to get is that the way to get non-profit projects built in this city is to develop business plans that will - largely - self-finance these types of projects.

February 9, 2007
Museum for African Art Finds Its Place

The Museum for African Art, which has had a nomadic existence since it opened in 1984, will finally gain a permanent home in a soaring new building designed by Robert A. M. Stern, on Fifth Avenue between 109th and 110th Streets, officials announced yesterday.

Models and renderings of the new structure, which will face the northeast corner of Central Park, were unveiled at a news conference at the Guggenheim Museum, some 20 blocks south of the site.

Presiding over the event, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hailed the project as “the first new construction of a museum on Museum Mile since the great Guggenheim opened in 1959.”

With 90,000 square feet, including 16,000 square feet of exhibition space, the building will give the Museum for African Art a long-coveted base, said Elsie McCabe, the institution’s president. Officials hope to break ground in the spring of 2008 and complete construction by the end of 2009.

The estimated cost is $80 million, of which $49 million has been raised, including $12 million from the city.

A tower of 115 luxury condominiums will be built above the museum, under a partnership between the museum and two developers, Brickman and Sidney Fetner Associates. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the structure will be a shimmering glass wall made up of what Mr. Stern’s firm calls “dancing mullions,” after the slender vertical members that form the division between window units.


It occupied two adjacent town houses on East 68th Street before moving to rented quarters in SoHo in 1993. Around 2000, Ms. McCabe arranged a partnership with Edison Schools, the for-profit education company, to buy a parcel on Fifth Avenue from a housing developer. (She said the site had once housed a low-rise commercial building.)

Plans called for Edison to build a school and a corporate headquarters on the site while providing space for the museum to build a structure for itself. In 2001 the company’s stock price nose-dived, and it abandoned the project in 2002, shortly after the museum had moved to a temporary location in Long Island City, Queens.

With a loan from the Community Preservation Corporation, the museum secured the land from Edison by 2003. Then, with help from two of its trustees — John L. Tishman of the Tishman Realty and Construction Corporation and Jonathan D. Green of the Rockefeller Group Development Corporation — the museum arranged a partnership with the two developers, Brickman and Sidney Fetner.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation recently arranged the sale of four other parcels to the partnership, clearing the way for the work to begin.

Mr. Stern said the challenge was to design a museum with “a strong civic public identity within the larger framework of a commercial apartment house — and at the same time, to make a building that is glassy and open, but not a knee-jerk glass block.”

Ms. McCabe said: “We knew if anybody could marry us distinctively with a residential building, he could. And God bless him, he did.”

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