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Home Arts and Culture  For now, the 'Broad Effect' is still in the crate
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Wednesday, November 7,2012

For now, the 'Broad Effect' is still in the crate

by Lawrence Cosentino
In July 2007, weary MSU development officer Mark Terman got into the elevator at the Wharton Center after the all-day competition to pick an architect for the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. He was collared by one of the jurors.

“You should start building hotels, restaurants, expand your airport,” Edwin Chan told him.

Chan, then a partner in architect Frank Gehry’s firm, told him Zaha Hadid’s design was not only brilliant but unique in all the world.

“Edwin, are you serious?” Terman asked.

“Dead serious,” Chan replied. “There are thousands of pilgrims who follow this kind of architecture from around the world. You are going to see an influx of visitors like you’ve never seen on campus.”

Five years later, Terman was still in “wait and see” mode.

“I hope he’s right,” Terman said. “No developers have grasped that yet. We’ve seen no new hotels come on line, no new top-notch restaurants on Grand River Avenue.”

The ripple effect of the Broad Art Museum on surrounding East Lansing, Lansing and mid-Michigan is a wide open question.

Eli Broad, the billionaire MSU alumnus whose $28 million gift was the catalyst for the Broad Museum, noticed the dearth of new restaurants and hotels on his first visit to the museum last month, but predicted they will come.

“Without any question, this will be a big boost to tourism for East Lansing and central Michigan,” Broad said in a phone interview last month, then snuck in a jab at MSU’s rival to the east.

“In the past, people in Michigan wanted to go to Ann Arbor. I think they’ll now have another, more interesting choice.”

The construction phase of the project, at least, had a quantifiable impact. According to general contractor Barton Malow of Southfield, 173,944 man-hours were logged on the job. Broad Museum Director Michael Rush said construction created 200 jobs and that $36 million of the museum’s $45 million Broad budget will stay in Michigan.

What will happen after the museum’s grand opening, no one knows, but a study by Anderson Economic Group to be released this week by MSU suggests the impact will be significant. (See next page.)

Back in 1980, heavyweight Time Magazine art critic Robert Hughes foresaw the regional transformation later dubbed “the Bilbao effect,” after Frank Gehry’s 1997 Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, credited with helping to revive a post-industrial rust belt city in Spain.

“The interlock between new art, capital, education, displaced piety and show biz has gathered enough power to transform whole neighborhoods outside the museum,” Hughes proclaimed in his book, “Shock of the New.”

Hughes was angry about the “young trendies” and “peering hordes of dentists from New Jersey” who invaded his once-quiet Soho to prowl the proliferating galleries and the circus-like “culture gulch” that sprang up in Paris around the Pompidou Centre after 1977. 

In mid-Michigan, circa 2012, no chambers of commerce or tourist bureaus are likely to spurn dentists, trendies or anyone else who wants to visit the Broad. 

Last week, the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau opened a second visitor center on Grand River Avenue, across from the museum.

The Broad has already sparked international buzz. Rush and the museum staff have been interviewed by nearly every top art magazine and architectural journal. Five Chinese newspapers have run stories on the Broad, partly because of curator Wang Chunchen, the first China-based curator hired by an American museum.

But when it comes to the Bilbao effect, Joseph Giovannini, The New York Times architectural critic who helped organize the Broad Museum architectural competition, had a mixed message for mid-Michigan.

“This will be a big boost to tourism for East Lansing and central Michigan, without any question,” Giovannini said. “I can see the possibility of some art dealers establishing themselves on Grand River Avenue, across from the museum.”

But he pointed out that Guggenheim Bilbao was part of a larger complex of projects, including a new port, opera house, esplanade and subway.

“It’s a serious error to ascribe too much importance and power to a single building to transform a neighborhood or a street, let alone a city,” Giovannini said. 

Comparing one museum project to another is infinitely more complex than comparing apples to oranges — it’s a tropical fruit stand, with different costs, buildings, locales and countless other variables.

Another new study suggests that there is no way to predict the outcome. “Set in Stone,” a report from the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago released in June 2012, looked at 700 cultural building projects (museums, performing arts centers and theaters) built from 1994 to 2008, costing from $4 million to $335 million. The study found “no clear pattern of spillover effects (negative or positive) of specific cultural building projects on non-building local cultural organizations and the greater community.”

Bob Trezise, CEO of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), avoided specific projections and stuck to intangibles.

“The Broad represents an emerging big city atmosphere, perhaps a turning point when we became global in our thinking and big in our ambitions,” he said. “It fundamentally says some of us had pride.”


Broad economic impact: $5.75 million a year

An economic impact study to be released this week by MSU projected $5.75 million annually in new spending from 150,000 visitors a year to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

The study, by the Anderson Economic Group, looked at businesses and attractions in the local market and found them not ready for prime time.

“The museum is likely to attract visitors with relatively high incomes, high levels of education and tastes and preferences that are more refined and upscale rather than the casual visitor base East Lansing establishments focus on today,” it reads.

Jason Meyers, communications director of the Broad Museum, shared some of the findings with City Pulse Monday.

The study trumpeted a big opportunity for upscale retail and restaurants, “boutiques with high-quality collectibles and gifts,” and higher-end hotels.

Of the 150,000 expected visitors, 30,000 would be new to the area. Those new visitors are expected to spend an average of $82 a day, adding up to $2.46 million in new restaurant, retail and other spending.

Another 60,000 people would have made the visit to the area anyway, but are expected to extend their stay to go to the Broad, spending $2.16 million more. The remaining 60,000 would make no impact, because they are going to the Broad instead of some other attraction in the area. 

About 15,000 visitors are expected to stay in a hotel for one night, generating $1.12 million in new spending.

In all, the museum is projected to generate $5.75 million in new spending a year from shopping, entertainment, retail, lodging, food and gas.

To arrive at these numbers, analysts drew upon a variety of sources, from reader demographics of art and architecture magazines to surveys of MSU alumni.

They also looked at museums operating “in similar markets or targeting similar audiences,” including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark., and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

The analysts drew up a demographic profile of the target audience “most likely to be drawn to a contemporary art museum designed by a leading contemporary architect.” A database of over 1,000 demographic and economic variables helped them find likely visitors within 90 minutes (a day trip) and visitors from farther away, who would stay in the area for the night.

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