Mexican Museum closer to a full-time home 

San Francisco’s Mexican Museum is nearer to finding a permanent home, starting an endowment and having a real staff again.
A plan to build the museum a three-story home in a new residential tower next to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in the San Francisco’s Yerba Buena cultural district is finally back on its feet because developer Millennium Partners is feeling optimistic about the economy.

And the museum, which hasn’t had any fulltime staff or curators for years, will meet this week with San Francisco Arts Commission chief Luis Cancel about hiring an executive director, curators and fundraising staff members.

In yet another sign of life, the museum launched an art exhibition at Fort Mason on Saturday — its second since it started showing art again after a two-year hiatus, said Nora Wagner, co-chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees.

Developer Millenium has also agreed to provide $5 million to the museum’s endowment, an important investment in a cultural museum that has not been flush with cash, said museum board member Victor Marquez.

The Mexican Museum has one of the largest and most respected collections of Latin-American art in the U.S., but has never had a home large enough to adequately show it. The museum opened in 1975 in the Mission district and moved seven years later to a larger space it leased at Fort Mason.

After outgrowing that space, in the mid-1990s the museum unveiled a plan to build a free-standing building, and though the Redevelopment Agency committed a vacant lot on Mission near Third Street for the project, neither the museum nor The City was ever able to raise the tens of millions needed for construction.

The dream of a permanent home was resurrected in 2007 when Millennium purchased the former Mercantile Building, now a Rochester Big and Tall, on the corner of Third and Mission streets, and The City’s Redevelopment Agency offered to give it the adjacent lot to build a residential tower, in exchange for using the first three floors for the Mexican Museum.

Before the project could be designed, the recession hit and the project was put on hold.

That project has recently been pulled off the shelf and has an aggressive timeline, said Redevelopment Agency Senior Project Manager Amy Neches. The developer hopes to be through the permitting process by early next year.

Wagner worked at the museum for 16 years, from shortly after its opening until the early 1990s, and said it’s thrilling to see the museum close to finally having a space that does its collection justice.

Cancel said that the project is the very last piece of the puzzle in the Yerba Buena cultural district that needs to be completed.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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