Contemporary Arts. Contemporary Arts Artists Articles Resources Directory
Home Sitemap

Museum of Contemporary Art official push his vision of planned urban renewal

FEW people have been more vocal and active about Los Angeles cultural activity than Eli Broad. The Museum of Contemporary Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the soon-to-be-built Disney Concert Hall are just a few of the edifices that bear the stamp of the former SunAmerica Inc. chairman and KB Home founder. Today, Broad takes on what may be his most challenging endeavor yet: the development of the Bunker Hill portion of Grand Avenue into a cohesive cultural, civic and entertainment district.

-- Danny King

Question: What do you hope to accomplish?

Answer: The Cathedral and Disney Hall are not going to create a street that has life from 8 in the morning until midnight. You need other attractions, whether it's cinema, some retail or other types of entertainment. The second thing is you've got to make the street pedestrian friendly, and that means reducing the amount of vehicular traffic, especially from 1st Street down to the Central Library.

In addition to that, crossing Grand Avenue provides a big opportunity because you've got 16 acres of land, from the Department of Water and Power all the way to City Hall, that's all chopped up.

The question is can we create a commons where you could have free concerts and a place where people from all communities could come celebrate, whether it's New Year's Eve, Fourth of July or Cinco de Mayo?

Q: How do you make all this happen?

A: You need close to $300 million in public funding for the park, to relocate all the garage entrances, get them off of Grand Avenue and put them elsewhere, whether it's Hope Street, Hill Street, etc., and to create a lot of additional parking, which obviously will produce revenues to service some of that $300 million.

The second thing you need is a large developer of national stature that believes this is commercially viable. We've interviewed half a dozen major developers, most all of who think this is commercially viable and exciting.

Q: Where's the $300 million going to come from?

A: It's not going to come from the city or county very much, unless there's a bond issue. The government is busy raising money for other things. They'll have to be some bond issues for parking facilities and the like. And it's going to require $700 million of private investment.

Q: Are you taking into account the future of the nearby county buildings?

A: if we wait for that (to be resolved), you and I won't be here. What we're saying is, give us the park, do whatever you want to the buildings on each side of it. As for the other parcel of land, the tinker toy garage, just give us the frontage, and if you want to build a new Hall of Administration high rise, we'll do it for you, or you do it. All we're concerned about is the Grand Avenue frontage.

Q: It's been suggested that there is a reluctance on the part of the mayor to get too heavily involved in major downtown developments, given the secession situation. Is that a hindrance right now?

A: I think that's an accurate description for where the mayor is right now. But remember, there's no city funding so no one in the Valley can say, gee, you're using city taxpayer money to do things downtown, why not out in the Valley? There's no intention of using any city money, general fund money or otherwise, to do any of this.

Q: Do you think the fact that he's not out front might delay the process?

A: This is not going to happen overnight. November is only seven months away. One has to have patience to get involved in this endeavor.

Q: How have you approached the commons concept?

A: We hired the best park consultant in America in Dan Biederman, (who) did Bryant Park in New York. He has ideas on how the park ought to be run and what ought to be there. For instance, you don't put benches in a park, you put loose chairs, because people, if they want to gather, want to meet next to one another.

Q: What are the mechanics and timetable of the Grand Avenue committee?

A: We meet regularly--every several months. Working with all these constituencies takes more time than any of us would like. It's far from being a done deal. Work is going to be done on the street to widen the sidewalks and some other things before Disney Hall opens. That's pretty assured. The other portions, I can't give you a timetable. I would like to see it all happening in '03 and '04.

Q: These sorts of plans often require strong political leadership--go-to people. Do we have those people?

A: We don't have the strong political leadership that they have in other cities, whether it's New York or Chicago. Here you've got five county supervisors, 15 council people, and you've got a mayor. If you had a different form of government, it would be easier.

© Copyright All rights reserved.
Unauthorized duplication in part or whole strictly prohibited by international copyright law.