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Latest buy is land

LACMA purchases a tract across Wilshire from the new Broad Contemporary.

March 12, 2008|Anne-Marie O'Connor | Times Staff Writer

Further expanding its 20-acre campus, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has purchased a sizable parcel of land across the street from its ambitious new showcase, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, for what sources involved with the deal said was close to $12 million.

City Councilman Tom LaBonge said the parcel would not only expand the Miracle Mile museum district but also possibly serve as a stop on a future subway to the sea.

"This is a victory. Urban lights is what this is all about," LaBonge said, alluding to the Chris Burden sculpture of streetlights newly installed along Wilshire Boulevard at LACMA.

"This is part of the big plan," LaBonge said. "It's all going to be complementary, and one day there's going to be a subway stop there, and everybody in the county can ride transit to that wonderful complex of art museums.

"We should build our city culturally," LaBonge said in a telephone interview from Washington, where he was attending a National League of Cities conference and lobbying Congress on issues such as air quality, the Los Angeles River restoration and Los Angeles International Airport.

LACMA spokeswoman Barbara Pflaumer said she was "delighted" by the acquisition but could offer few details, such as the size of the lot.

"We saw this as an opportunity to develop key parts of the campus," Pflaumer said. "We don't have specific plans for the property. It was an opportunity to buy something, and we bought it. . . . We'd love a subway stop."

Pflaumer said the county did not pay for the purchase but declined to say who had. The reported price was about half of what LACMA paid in 1994 for the May Co. property adjacent to the museum.

LaBonge, whose district includes the site of the purchase, said the parcel encompasses a five-story office building completed in 1960, at the southwest corner of Wilshire and Ogden, and a construction site to the rear of it, which had been planned as a loft complex by a division of Miami-based Lennar Corp.

Kevin Farr, president of the Southern California division of Lennar Urban, which sold the property to LACMA, said the purchase closed escrow in late February.

"They've jumped Wilshire Boulevard," Farr said. "We had been working on a development, but the museum was a much more interested buyer than we were a developer at this point."

Lennar's Southern California urban development group, which builds high-density residential projects, had planned to build "Gallery Lofts," whose address was listed as 6006 Wilshire Blvd.

The projected complex was an upscale residential project intended to "bring loft-style living to new heights" of "metropolitan energy, urban luxury," according to its online brochure.

But at the moment, the project is an unfinished low-rise skeleton that many of its neighbors view as an eyesore.

LaBonge said the LACMA acquisition solidifies a cultural hub in walking distance of the Page Museum, the Petersen Automotive Museum and the Craft and Folk Art Museum.

"You go up three blocks to the Farmers Market and you're in heaven," he said. "Just like in the nation's capital in the Mall, Los Angeles will have a wonderful location. There's a lot of complement when you cluster museums together. It's a great plus."

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anne-marie.oconnor @latimes.com

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