Future film museum will be steps away from future Westside Subway station

A rendering of a possible subway portal at Wilshire/Fairfx, across the street from the site of the proposed film museum.

A rendering of a possible subway portal at Wilshire/Fairfax, across the street from the site of the proposed film museum.

The news this week that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) are teaming up to create a museum devoted to motion pictures is long, long overdue. Finally the birthplace of the film industry will have a proper and permanent venue where locals and tourists can go to learn more about the industry that put L.A. on the map.

The news should be especially exciting to Source readers because the proposed location for the new museum is in the old May Company building that LACMA owns on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax – which just happens to be the site of the future Westside Subway Extension station at Wilshire/Fairfax.

Rendering of the Wilshire/Western station at the ground level of the May Company building.

Rendering of the Wilshire/Fairfax station at the ground level of the May Company building.

Imagine that: a major cultural attraction built next to mass transit. Unlike, for example, the Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium or the Getty. This is the kind of thing that makes it look like the Los Angeles area actually knows what it’s doing when it comes to urban planning!

While we all wait for the Westside Subway Extension’s environmental report to be released this fall, documents on the subway extension page give a glimpse into the possibilities for the Wilshire/Fairfax station. Here’s a direct link to the Wilshire/Fairfax presentation.

At this point, the plan is for Metro to fund and build one entrance to the Wilshire/Fairfax station. Three locations for the entrance are under consideration: 1) an entrance inside the May Company building; 2) the northwest corner of Wilshire & Fairfax adjacent to the historic Johnie’s building, and; 3) the south side of Wilshire between Ogden and Orange Grove, one block east of Fairfax.

Most people participating in the Station Area Advisory Group for this station said they preferred to have an entrance on the east side of Fairfax to better serve the arts and cultural institutions already there, with the LACMA/May Company entrance being their first choice.

Easy transfers and accessibility to other transit modes is one of the factors that planners consider when evaluating station entrance locations. The Johnie’s site and the LACMA/May Company site both win here for anyone who would be traveling north or south on Fairfax; the Farmer’s Market and the Grove are about .6 miles north on Fairfax.

When it comes to selecting a station entrance, other factors are cost and ease of construction. Metro has noted that it’s always easier and less expensive to build a station entrance on a site that you are already using for construction staging.  That works against the LACMA location, since that building isn’t going anywhere. (You can read more about subway construction here).

As for the process, Metro subway planners will recommend a station entrance location as part of the final environmental document and the final decision — as per usual — will be up to the Metro Board of Directors. Even if a LACMA entrance isn’t chosen, the museum could still have one. All the stations are being planned to allow for additional entrances if more funding becomes available, either from the government or the private sector.

It’s worth pointing out here that LACMA was the single largest donor to the campaign for the Measure R sales tax increase in 2008 that is partially funding the Westside Subway Extension. The reason: the museum knew that heavy traffic in the Miracle Mile area was keeping potential visitors away. The subway extension will make access to LACMA, the Miracle Mile and much of the Westside far easier — which is a true victory for everyone in the region.

11 replies

  1. Every time I visit LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits, etc. I wonder again why there is no subway here. The fact that it’s now happening is a huge plus. I think the station here has the potential to be one of the most popular stations overall — and will certainly be so with tourists.

    Personally, I like portals that are built into/under buildings as they allow the space to be used for a variety of purposes above (think 7th St or Hollywood/Highland versus Pershing Sq. or Vermont/Santa Monica).

    Regardless of final decisions though, this subway and this stop in particular is a definite win for the region.

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  2. If it’s a choice between the three, the May Company/ LACMA building location obviously makes the most sense. It’s on the right side of the street for LACMA, and it looks more centrally located.

    It would be even better if they May Company entrance allowed people to enter directly into the building from the station, as well as exit out onto the street, as is the case at Hollywood/ Highland.

    The Johnie’s location would be okay, although I note that it would be yet another open plaza station entrance. People have built things on top of subway stations before, so I hope that the open plaza would be converted to something more useful in the future.

    Of course, the best case scenario would be to have more than one entrance at that location, and at all Metro Rail locations.

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  3. It’s great its starting to happen now, but the lack of the Wilshire corridor subway is nothing to “wonder” about. The fact is that the “rest” of the Purple Line (and it surely would have been all the way to Santa Monica by now), would have been completed 20 years ago ,if it weren’t for the incredible shortsighted LA Westside/Beverly Hills residents blatant NIMBYism lead by Congressman Waxman whose used a methane explosion at “Ross Dress for Less” at Third and Fairfax as an excuse to have Federal legislation block the project for 20 years.

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  4. Bring on the integrated Purple Line subway station portal on LACMA’s May Co Bldg!! Your riders want to be on east side of the Fairfax intersection for LACMA and the other museums as well as the bus connections (Metro 217, 780, 20, 720).
    I can hardly look at this place when I come to LACMA every week without thinking of a subway entrance integrated into the building.

    BTW, it’s amazing to see it in renderings!

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  5. Did anyone else notice the giant balloon dog in the presentation’s Wilshire/Fairfax Station watercolor (slide 5)? :P

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  6. Is there anyway we can make it illegal for those cheesy Hollywood characters from setting up shop outside this museum? I can see it now: Superman fighting Marilyn Monroe for a chance for a photo op with Sven from Sweden. Those people already make Hollywood/Highland look bad. Especially when they’re in your face demanding money after you take a picture with them. And yes…I did say “Those people!”

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  7. One small correction to your post: All sources I could find cite Fort Lee, NJ as the birthplace of the motion picture industry. A section of Los Angeles once called Edendale is cited as the birthplace of the West Coast motion picutre industry.

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  8. I know it’s probably a long way away, but given the murmors of eventually extending the Crenshaw line up Farifax to Hollywood, is any planning being done for this station to accommodate a over-under junction transfer structure?

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  9. I finally saw the pdf illustrations of the subway station. Looks aweseome.

    The giant balloon dog shown in the station illustration is a reference to the art of Jeff Koons. Koons has art on display at LACMA and the “balloon” dog is actually made of steel.

    I like how the LACMA West station entrance would, in fact, lead into the museum, give or take a set of doors to make sure that visitors are paying to enter the museum during museum hours.

    I’m curious to know what’s in the basement of the LACMA West/ May Co. building. If it is private offices, art storage, building maintenance or something equally closed off to the public, then it makes sense to have the station be separated on that level. If not, there’s another potential subway access point…

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  10. My hope is that they name the station to LACMA/Petersen Automotive Station from the start instead of going with Wilshire/Fairfax and then spend $200,000 or more to rename it later.

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