Eli Broad museum site gets preliminary city OK, but a rival arts use suddenly emerges

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A potential roadblock to Eli Broad’s plans for a downtown museum housing his contemporary art collection sprang up Thursday while he was en route to securing a unanimous OK from commissioners of the city Community Redevelopment Agency to plant a $100-million facility on publicly owned land.

Now vying for officials’ consideration is a rival plan to build a 3,000-seat theater and training center for a tradition-steeped Chinese performing arts company on the same parcel at Grand Avenue and 2nd Street. Behind the proposal is Shen Yun Performing Arts, which has brought shows to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Orange County Performing Arts Center and other major venues and says it will stage more than 400 performances this year in 30 countries.


Shen Yun’s spokesman, Shizhong Chen, briefly presented its plan to the CRA/LA board during a 20-minute hearing at the Central Library that preceded the board’s vote in favor of the museum, which may become known as the Broad Collection, a la New York City’s Frick Collection. Chen complained that Shen Yun had tried since February to present its proposal to the redevelopment agency but was ignored.

Now, he said in an interview after the vote, the group will try to make its case to the remaining government bodies that have to sign off before Broad can start building the museum -- the Los Angeles City Council, the county Board of Supervisors and a Joint Powers Authority of city, county and state officials that’s in charge of the $3-billion Grand Avenue project.

Shen Yun wants the museum site to be thrown open to competing bids, under the same principle under which government authorities chose the Related Cos. in 2004 as developer of the overall Grand Avenue project. Because the original Related plan is being changed to accommodate the museum, Chen said, the same competitive process should take place for that parcel. Asked whether Shen Yun might sue to stop the museum if officials don’t reopen the site for development bids, Chen said, ‘we’ll have to evaluate our situation.’

Chen made a two-minute appeal to CRA officials during the hearing, and they did not respond. Broad said afterward that it was the first he had heard of the performing arts proposal. Broad said that there’s no need to open competitive bidding for the parcel, because the museum is a subset of Related’s overall development plan and falls under the development umbrella created during the public process that led to Related’s approval as developer.

Chen said that a Shen Yun center would be a bigger magnet for downtown visitors and economic activity than the art museum, which Broad hopes will draw 200,000 or more visitors each year. A written proposal Chen gave to the redevelopment commission calls for a 1.5-million-square-foot complex with traditional Chinese architectural features. It would include a high-rise office building and housing for as many as 1,800 students who would live there while training to join three different touring Shen Yun dance troupes.

Here’s the full story.

-- Mike Boehm

Upper photo: Eli Broad. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin Los Angeles Times

Lower photo: The lot at Grand Avenue and 2nd Street. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times