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Art Museum Looks at Move to Promenade : Redevelopment: Latest plan unveiled by officials would move collection of artworks into a sprawling three-story building.

February 23, 1995|JOHN POPE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Officials at the Long Beach Museum of Art have unveiled the latest plan in their long quest to move from the cramped brick-and-wood house on Ocean Boulevard to a larger facility.

This time, officials are considering a sprawling three-story building once occupied by Thrift Village, a secondhand store, on The Promenade downtown. The store at 218 The Promenade closed last year.

Museum officials have asked the city's Redevelopment Agency to purchase the building, valued at about $1.9 million, and donate it to the museum. Officials said they hope to raise $6 million through donations to pay for the move and various renovations, including the addition of a theater.

Redevelopment board members expressed enthusiasm for the plan, but said they need to study the matter further before deciding.

"This is obviously a legitimate request, so now it's a matter of determining the feasibility," said board member Donald Westerland. "We didn't hear a lot of details and specifics."

But the museum's presence "would extend the kind of entertainment and cultural focus that we want to have downtown," Westerland said.

Since 1950, the art museum has occupied a two-story Bluff Park structure that was once the summer residence of a philanthropist.

Because of space constraints, most of the museum's permanent 1,500-piece collection of paintings and sculptures is in a Los Angeles warehouse. To view the museum's vast collection of artistic videotapes, patrons must go to a small studio in Belmont Shore.

Patrons have long complained about lack of parking, inadequate space for classes and the museum's inaccessibility by bus or rapid transit, museum director Hal Nelson said. About 30,000 people visited the museum last year, he said.

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The proposed move would allow the museum to quadruple its floor space and offer more parking and greater access by public transportation, Nelson said.

The museum has a fund-raising committee in place, Nelson said, adding that the $6 million total "is a goal within our fund-raising capability."

Financing problems have doomed previous plans to move.

The museum had wanted to construct a building near the Terrace Theater, but the estimated price tag--$15 million to $20 million--was too steep.

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In the late 1980s, the museum sought to move downtown into the high-rise Landmark Square building, which was under construction at the time. But the museum was left out of the developer's plans when officials were unable to raise enough money.

Nelson said the museum hopes to sidestep its past financing problems by moving to an existing building and carrying out the renovations in phases.

During the first phase, galleries and a large glass lobby and ticket area would be built. In the second phase, an annex for additional gallery space would be built on an adjacent city-owned parking lot. The final phase calls for construction of a 250-seat theater as well as an outdoor sculpture garden to host the museum's popular summer concert series.

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