Land swap seen as win-win deal 

As the cash-strapped city struggles to find dollars for capital improvement projects, a unique land-swap deal will allow the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to expand in exchange for building a state-of-the-art firehouse.

City politicians are pushing a multimillion bond for the June 8 ballot that would allocate tax dollars to upgrade aging fire and police stations.

But in a land exchange expected to be announced today, SFMOMA will acquire city land to expand by 100,000 square feet and in return build a new firehouse just blocks away.

Under the proposed agreement, The City will deed to the museum the existing fire station on Howard Street and a portion of Hunt Alley directly behind the fire station to make room for a $480 million expansion project. In exchange, museum officials agreed to build a new firehouse on Folsom Street between Fifth and Sixth streets, where there’s currently a vacant industrial building, according to the Mayor’s Office.

The land the museum is receiving is valued at $2.5 million, according to the Mayor’s Office.

“The expansion is just going to add to our national prestige,” said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom. “This arrangement is great for MOMA and great for The City.”

SFMOMA, which is currently 225,000 square feet, recently announced that it raised $250 million to add the 100,000 square feet of new gallery and public space to the museum, which is located next door to the existing fire station on Howard Street. The museum — which is the cornerstone to the burgeoning Museum Row — was founded in 1935 and has housed such exhibits as Jackson Pollock’s early masterpiece “Guardians of the Secret” in 1943.

“The City needs a bigger SFMOMA,” said P.J. Johnston, president of the San Francisco Arts Commission. “I think its going to be a tremendous opportunity for our cultural life in The City.”

The new fire station will replace the vintage firehouse on Howard Street, which was built in the early 1900s. The firehouse is in need of renovation, which would cost The City as much as $10 million to upgrade, according to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

The new fire station, which will be built at 935 Folsom St., will be a crucial location where there’s a high volume of calls for service. The Fire Department will oversee the design and development of the new station, which is expected to cost more than $14 million.

Construction on both projects is expected to start in 2011.

The agreement translates into a $10 million gift to The City, the Mayor’s Office said. The agreement will go to the Fire Commission for approval Thursday. The Board of Supervisors will then have to finalize the arrangement.

Bigger museum

650,000 Annual visitors to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
26,000 Pieces of artwork on display
12,350 Pieces of artwork donated since 1995
1,800 Annual gallery tours
100,000 Square feet of planned expansion, which will be gallery and public space
$480 million Cost of current expansion
$250 million Amount raised so far

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Erin Sherbert

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