Whose Space Is This?

Building the National Museum of the Americas in Los Angeles

By Martin K. Zitter
Published on LatinoLA: February 26, 2003

Whose Space Is This?

For the past three years, I have been visiting federal, state, county and city officials and community leaders, explaining my design and proposal to build the National Museum of the Americas and the Trade and Cultural Center of the Americas, of up to 2 million square feet, along with affordable housing, in the airspace over the 101 freeway.

To be fair, I got the idea from the Washington State Trade and Convention Center, which, along with a hotel, office, retail, parking, entertainment and residential space, was built over the 5 freeway as it passes through downtown Seattle.

You likely know that the Smithsonian?s National Museum of the American Indian, of over 400,000 square feet, is nearing completion on the Mall in Washington D.C, and that the U.S. Congress recently authorized the African American History and Culture Museum to also build a permanent home. It was reported by the New York Times (July 22, 2002), that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has strengthened its efforts to establish a Hispanic/Latino equivalent.

Where better to place such a grand, monumental National Museum of the Americas than in the Civic Center area of the City of Los Angeles, to complement both the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and the venerable founding El Pueblo site, surrounded with by far the largest Latino community in the U.S.-- some four and a quarter million Spanish-speaking residents?

State of California law permits private developers to lease at market rate for up to 99 years the Caltrans airspace above a suitable freeway segment. There are no real technical challenges and such development is considered to be safe, environmentally friendly and ultimately readaptive.

If I, as a private developer, am willing to pay market rate and create jobs, housing and tax revenues with commercial development, why should the city seek to deny this while keeping such a prime site from being commercially productive?

Los Angeles? 14th District Council Member Nick Pacheco proposes to build a $300 million bridge over the 101 freeway near the Civic Center in downtown L.A. and install the Latino Museum on it. It is Mr. Pacheco who appears ready now to take over the site and my ideas, (except for $300 million of taxpayer money) for his political ambitions. I think he owes it to the people of Los Angeles to at least provide them, and me, with a thoughtful response to my efforts.

I have also asked this question of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and State Senator Gil Cedillo and Assembly Member Jackie Goldberg and Supervisor Gloria Molina and Mr. Pacheco and Jan Perry and Ed Reyes and Carol Schatz and Nick Patsouras and Daniel Belin, etc., with nary a response.

About Martin K. Zitter:
Martin K. Zitter is President, CEO of BridgeVillages, L.L.C. He is a real estate developer, a museum lover, and a student of Pre-Columbian, Pre-Conquest, Mesoamerican, and Latino and Hispanic history, art and culture.

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