Downtown Los Angeles Places Another Big Bet on the Arts

For decades the effort to revitalize downtown Los Angeles has been tied to arts projects, from the construction of the midcentury modern Music Center in 1964 to the addition of Frank Gehry’s soaring stainless steel Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.

But the pandemic was tough on downtowns and cultural institutions around the country, and Los Angeles has been no exception.

Its downtown office vacancy rates climbed above 25 percent. Storefronts are empty. Homelessness and crime remain concerns. Many arts organizations have yet to recover their prepandemic audiences. And there have been vivid displays of the area’s thwarted ambitions: Graffiti artists covered three abandoned skyscrapers just before the Grammy Awards were held across the street at the Arena, and some lights on the acclaimed new Sixth Street Viaduct were doused after thieves stole the copper wire.

So it was a major vote of confidence in the area’s continuing promise when the Broad, the popular contemporary art museum that opened across the street from Disney Hall in 2015, announced last month that it was about to begin a $100 million expansion.

A rendering of the expansion announced by the Broad, a contemporary art museum, in March, which it said would cost $100 million.Credit…Diller Scofidio + Renfro, via The Broad

And it was very much a continuation of the vision of its founder, Eli Broad, the businessman and philanthropist who played a key role in the effort to create a center of gravity in a famously spread-out city by transforming Grand Avenue into a cultural hub. Broad, who died in 2021, helped to establish the Museum of Contemporary Art and get Disney Hall built before opening the Broad to house his own art collection.

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