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Children's Museum Delays Hansen Dam Facility

Culture* Fund-raising is an issue as the L.A. institution rethinks the timetable for Valley and Little Tokyo projects.


Blaming the stalled economy, the Children's Museum of Los Angeles is delaying breaking ground on its Hansen Dam branch and rethinking its timetable for that branch and a proposed 100,000-square-foot facility planned for Little Tokyo, Ronald Gastelum, president of the museum's board of trustees, said Wednesday.

Gastelum said ground will not be broken in November, as previously announced, for the Hansen Dam museum in Lake View Terrace that had been slated to open this year.

Completion of the project is expected to be delayed until 2004 or 2005, he said.

"Art Park is further away," he said of the downtown branch. No groundbreaking date has been announced for that facility. The facilities would replace the downtown Children's Museum, which has been closed since 2000.

"In our current economy, things are much more difficult than they were a few years ago for fund-raising," said Gastelum, who also is CEO of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

About $112 million is needed to complete both projects, Gastelum said. The nature-oriented museum at the Hansen Dam Recreation Area will cost about $40 million. The museum in Little Tokyo, which will focus on the urban experience and the arts, is expected to cost about $60 million, he said. The additional $12 million would be used as a museum endowment.

"We are not close to the $112 million," Gastelum said Wednesday.

The 100,000-square-foot downtown museum, known as Art Park, has been viewed as a major addition to an increasingly lively arts district in Little Tokyo, in downtown Los Angeles, at the corner of Temple and Judge John Aiso streets.

Architect Thom Mayne of the Santa Monica architectural firm Morphosis has completed conceptual drawings for the downtown museum, with walls that suggest origami, the Japanese art of folded paper.

The downtown site has been controversial. The Los Angeles Police Department balked at sharing a planned parking structure with the museum, and the Japanese American community has expressed a desire to use the site for a recreation center.

In spite of those issues, Gastelum said, "we're not looking at another site."

The museum's trustees and governors wanted to raise about $20 million before construction started on the Hansen Dam project.

"We're 75% of the way there," Gastelum said. The money on hand is from the city of Los Angeles, the state of California and gifts, he added.

The boards are "looking at our timing" and reconsidering budgets for the projects, he said. A new timetable and fund-raising plan should be in place by the end of the month.

The Hansen Dam branch of the museum was designed by Los Angeles architect Sarah Graham, with a 24,000-square-foot exhibition space designed by Edwin Schlossberg's New York firm. The facility would be the first major museum in the San Fernando Valley.

Partially built into a hillside, the museum will have a roof covered with soil and plantings. It will be cooled by the earth and wind instead of air conditioning.

Artificial lighting will be kept to a minimum, photovoltaic solar cells will generate electricity and recycled materials will be used extensively, said Graham, of the Los Angeles firm of Angelil/Graham/Pfenninger/Scholl.

Although the Hansen Dam project probably will get underway soon, Mayne said he believes the downtown project eventually will go forward and that delays are commonplace in the building process. "When you're an architect, you get used to this," he said.

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