The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — the organization that awards the Oscars — is poised to build a new museum stretching across 208,000 square feet on Wilshire Boulevard just west of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Dedicated to the history of movies and the art of filmmaking, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will take over the historic May Co. building, but its most dramatic feature will be an otherworldly glass orb, which will function as a 1,000-seat theater.
Of course, you don't just land such a thing in mid-city without jolting the neighbors. The project, which is privately funded but must get city approval for construction, provoked the ire of neighborhood groups mainly because it offered what they insisted was too little parking and included too many giant digital signs. The Academy has since made substantial changes to its plans and hopes to forge an official agreement with community groups regarding traffic and parking. The City Council should approve this project.
The museum would be built right where it should be — in the heart of a commercial and cultural corridor, counting as its nearest neighbors LACMA, the Petersen Automotive Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits. But additional events and visitor traffic could be a burden on the residential streets just off Wilshire. The museum was allowed a 10% reduction in required parking spaces because it will be within 1,500 feet of a "fixed transit station" — in this case, the station at Wilshire and Fairfax on the planned Metro Westside Purple Line extension. But that station isn't expected to be completed until 2023, and the museum will open in 2017. And the 482 total spaces the museum was required to have were in a garage and a lot already utilized by LACMA.
The Academy heard the critics and, wisely, increased the total parking, securing long-term leases for 800 more spaces in two nearby office buildings and the Petersen. (There will be parking for 88 bicycles as well.) The Academy also scotched plans to drape banners and display digital signs from upper windows of the May Co. building. There will be two digital signs in the street-level windows flanking the May Co. entrance and a digital sign on the sphere that won't face a street. And the Academy plans to display a giant outline of an Oscar statuette in front of the four-story gold cylindrical tower that is a defining feature of the May Co. building.
The museum is going up at a time when L.A. officials are encouraging residents to rely more on public transit. In a nod to that, the museum's architect, Renzo Piano, has made the Wilshire doors the main entrance so that people can stroll easily from the subway stop into the museum.
The Academy says it is still looking to acquire more parking nearby. That's a good idea. And it should continue to consult with community groups to ensure that the new museum is an asset to the neighborhood, not an invasion.