Design of neon museum is progressing

CITY HALL — The City Council on Tuesday approved adding $252,000 to a contract with a firm designing exterior renovations to the vacant building slated to house the Museum of Neon Art.

The City Council last year approved a highly subsidized deal with the Los Angeles-based nonprofit museum to move into the city-owned building at 216 S. Brand Blvd. across from the Americana at Brand.

While the initial agreement was inked in September 2009, the groups still have to finalize a lease for the property.

Under a proposed 15-year lease, the city would pledge up to $1 million in redevelopment funds to help renovate the vacant building.

As part of the initial agreement, the City Council on Tuesday added $252,000 to the current $40,000 contract with Shimoda Design Group for the completed design, construction and bidding documents.

"We are responsible for exterior improvements," said Philip Lanzafame, director of the Community Development & Housing Department. "We would be regardless of who goes in there. We would want to clean the building up to make it usable."

Shimoda would also be responsible for any required work by structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers.

Councilman Dave Weaver said the contract's price tag made sense given the old age of the building, which may require extensive engineering work.

"This is another one of the old vintage buildings," he said. "You don't know what you are going to get into until you get in there."

In addition to the renovations, the City Council in March approved an expansion proposal from the nonprofit that will require the city to buy an adjacent property at 212 South Brand, where an arcade currently operates.

The city has reached an initial agreement with the building's owner, Andranik Shahinian, but has not yet bought the building, Lanzafame said.

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