Guggenheim Museum proposal dropped

January 01, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK - After months of growing fainter and fainter, the giant titanium cloud that was to have been the Guggenheim Museum on the East River has dissipated completely, victim of the Guggenheim's financial straits and a weak economy.

In a three-paragraph e-mail message, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced Monday that it had withdrawn its proposal to build a 400-foot-tall building designed by Frank Gehry on Piers 9, 13 and 14, south of the Brooklyn Bridge in Lower Manhattan.

Thomas Krens, the foundation director, acknowledged as unrealistic the prospect of financing the $950 million project at a time when the museum is cutting budgets, staff and programs.

Krens said the Guggenheim would still need to expand within the next decade. He also still believed that a strong cultural presence would help revitalize downtown. "But given the current situation," he said, "the Guggenheim project has to be rethought, perhaps on a more modest level, and certainly in the context of the city's master plan for the development of Lower Manhattan."

In November 2000 Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani designated the Guggenheim Foundation as developer of the piers and pledged $67.8 million to the project. The administration of Giuliani's successor, Michael Bloomberg, has accepted the museum's withdrawal.

"A new Guggenheim museum designed by Frank Gehry could have been a marvelous addition to the downtown cultural community," said Andrew M. Alper, president of the New York City Economic Development Corp. "However, given the museum's current financial difficulties, we understand and support their decision."

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