Museum Plans Downtown Annex : Expansion: Developers of Great American Plaza are reportedly planning to give a $1.6-million building to the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY ARTS EDITOR

The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art is hoping to establish a permanent downtown annex in a free-standing, two-story structure that is part of the Great American Plaza development at Broadway and Kettner.

The 50-year-old La Jolla-based museum--which announced plans in 1987 for a $9-million expansion of its Prospect Street building but has yet to break ground--plans to use the downtown space as an interim museum while the Prospect Street structure is closed for 18 months of construction.

The museum would continue to keep the downtown space open as an annex after the La Jolla expansion is completed.

An article in Thursday's San Diego Daily Transcript revealed that negotiations on the project are under way, and that One Plaza Realty, the arm of Great American Development Co. that is in charge of developing Great American Plaza in partnership with Shimizu Land Corp. of Tokyo, plans to give the $1.6-million building to the museum outright. The developers reportedly would also pay additional "soft costs," including $100,000 for improvements to the 11,000-square-foot space, making what they say is a total contribution of $2.7 million.

Charles Castle, associate director of the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, said Thursday that the museum does not yet know the total cost and that, because details are still being worked out, the museum could not give a timetable for either the opening of the downtown space or the La Jolla expansion. He said only that negotiations are continuing.

Diane Maxwell, a museum spokesperson, also confirmed that the downtown structure, which is part of an overall design for Great American Plaza by renowned Chicago architect Helmut Jahn, would include a plaza designed by two highly regarded public artists, San Diego-based Robert Irwin and Rhode Island-based Richard Fleishner. The two artists would also collaborate with San Diego architect David Raphael Singer on the interior of the museum.

The museum would like to be able to move into the downtown space by the beginning of next year, Castle said, but it is approaching the project with caution to ensure that the project will not become a financial burden.

He remains optimistic, however. "It's a matter of ironing out the final nuts and bolts and details," he said. "There's no doubt we want to be there, we just don't have a signed agreement at this point."

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