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Entertainment & Arts

Hammer Museum to expand as UCLA acquires Occidental Petroleum property

Hammer Museum expansion

The exterior of the Hammer Museum in Westwood.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The Hammer Museum at UCLA is expanding its footprint in Westwood, taking over five floors of the Occidental Petroleum office tower that will give the contemporary art institution more than 30% additional exhibition and administrative space.

Until recently, the Hammer had leased its space from Occidental. Officials at the Hammer and UCLA said Monday that the expansion is part of a recent real estate deal in which the university has become the Hammer’s new landlord.

UCLA said it has acquired a full city block of property from Occidental that includes the office tower and the museum building, both of which had belonged to the oil company. The acquisition also includes the 634-space underground parking garage. 

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The university said the purchase price of $92.5 million was covered by proceeds of bonds sold in 2012 to finance strategic capital projects and property acquisitions. The school said the transaction closed escrow on Oct. 23. 

Hammer officials said they have secured a new rent-free, 99-year lease with the university for the museum building and five floors of the office building. The museum will occupy the first five floors of the tower, UCLA, floors 6 through 16. 

As part of the real-estate negotiation, the museum said it has received a $25-million cash payment from Occidental.

A spokeswoman for the the Hammer said that the museum had an option to purchase the building in 2021 at the end of its 30-year lease agreement with Occidental and that the cash payout was the result of the deal that resulted in the new lease.

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An Occidental spokeswoman said on Monday that the cash payment was made to release the Hammer’s option to purchase the museum building in 2021.

The Hammer, which opened in 1990, was founded by Armand Hammer, the former chairman of Occidental, which financed the museum in its early days. UCLA took over running the museum in 1994.

Audited financial statements from the Hammer show that in 1991 the museum received a “written unconditional promise” of annual free rent from Occidental valued at $1.4 million per year for the 30-year lease term.

The museum said the additional 40,000 square feet of footage will allow the Hammer to upgrade and expand its existing gallery space and to create dedicated galleries for the Hammer Contemporary Collection and works on paper.

In addition, the Hammer said it plans build a new study center for the UCLA Grunwald Center Collection. Additional spaces will include a classroom and support spaces.

Currently, the Hammer occupies 121,000 square feet of space.

The museum spokeswoman said the $25 million in cash from Occidental will be used to help ensure the future of the Hammer. Upcoming projects include a capital campaign that is expected to launch in the near future.

Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin wasn’t available for comment. In a museum release, she said, “There could not be a more ideal situation than to share our building with UCLA, with whom we have such a long affiliation.”

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Based for years in L.A., Occidental moved its corporate headquarters to Houston in 2014 and put the Westwood property up for sale earlier this year.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 

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