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Petersen Seeks More Space to Park Collection

Museums* It wants to add 65,000 square feet to its 200,000 by early 2004. The board will screen architects today.

February 20, 2002|CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Looking for more space in which to display its collection of 275 vehicles, the Petersen Automotive Museum is making plans for a $20-million to $30-million expansion of its building on Wilshire Boulevard.

Museum Director Dick Messer said he expects the museum to unveil a capital campaign in September or October, aiming to begin construction about a year from now and to complete the addition in early 2004.

The Petersen Museum, founded in 1994 under the aegis of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, stepped up to full independence in 2000, when founding benefactors Robert E. and Margie Petersen contributed $24.8 million to pay off the fledgling institution's debts and give it outright ownership of its building. A funding shortfall before that had threatened the museum's future.

Messer said the museum is hoping to add 65,000 square feet to its current 200,000-square-foot space by adding to the existing museum's third and fourth floors. He noted that the building, constructed 40 years ago as a department store, was designed with such an expansion in mind.

"The infrastructure is there," Messer said. "It's always been a plan to do something with the building. We'd like to have the architect chosen by June."

The museum foundation's six board members will hear presentations today from six prospective architects. Board Chairman Bruce Meyer said the competitors are Jerde Partnership International, based in Venice; Keating/Khang, based in Los Angeles; AC Martin Partners, which has offices in Los Angeles, Irvine and Sacramento; Ellerbe Becket, a global firm with its largest office in Minneapolis and a California office in San Francisco; Gensler, another global firm with offices in Los Angeles; and Mark Whipple of Russell Group.

The museum's existing space allows for display of about 150 vehicles at a time.

"The problem we've got with the Petersen is that when you drive by, you have no idea what's inside. It's not just a bunch of cars lined up against a wall," Messer said. The addition, he said, would not only make room for more vehicles and creative presentations, but would allow space for a special-event room seating up to 700, and perhaps a smaller theatrical space.

"We want to get all the money before we start," said Messer. He declined to say how much the museum's backers have committed to the effort so far, but said he had secured "pledges from some very substantial people."

Messer said the museum counts 1,800 members (who each contribute $50 yearly or more) and an annual budget of about $3 million, which supports 28 employees. Meyer, the board chairman, said he expected the project's first phase, including the drafting of a master plan and basic construction, would probably cost $13 million to $15 million. Meyer said the next phase, dependent on programming decisions yet to be made, is likely to bring the total tab to $20 million to $30 million.

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