A construction crane has come to the boarded-up parcel of Jessie Square, across Mission Street from Yerba Buena Gardens.
“We have begun,” said Andy Kluger, chairman of San Francisco’s Mexican Museum, an institution whose long-delayed dream of building a new home South of Market is finally coming to fruition.
“After 40 years, it feels very good,” added Kluger, who joined the museum’s board five years ago and has spent the last three shepherding this project. It will bring the museum’s bountiful collection — 16,000 pre-Columbian, colonial, modern and contemporary works of Mexican and Latino art — from its far-too-small quarters at Fort Mason Center to a significant new building designed by Mexican architect Enrique Norten.
Crews recently began shoring and bracing work on the site of the 52,000-square-foot museum. It will wrap into the 52-story luxury condo project Millennium Partners is building in the shell of the historic brick Aronson Building and in a tower that will adjoin it. The legal hurdles that delayed the project have apparently been surmounted.
The Mexican Museum, which will share the Jessie Square plaza with historic St. Patrick’s Church and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, will occupy four floors of both the 1903 Aronson Building and the new tower designed by San Francisco architect Glenn Rescalvo of Handel Associates.
As part of the deal with the city, which owns the land, the developer pays for the construction of the shell and core of the museum, whose total cost is now estimated at $60 million. The city puts up $14 million for the interior and will own the building.
Kluger and the board have raised $6.5 million toward the endowment and are talking to people who could contribute an additional $6 million this year (their names will be displayed on gallery walls). The long-term goal is $30 million.
Kluger, who was born in Mexico City — his father was a publisher who played chess with Leon Trotsky — just visited the museum’s architect and Jan Hendrix, the Dutch artist from Mexico City who is creating a vine-like metal work that will wrap around the glass facade.
“It’s going to be 1,000 meters long and three stories tall. It’s magnificent,” Kluger says.
The museum plans to open the building in 2019. Now, it has new shows in two San Francisco locations: “¡Que Rico, Que Bueno!,” a display of ancient and contemporary Mexican and Latino art, at the Jewish Community Center’s Katz Snyder Gallery through June, and “Art of New Spain: Highlights From the Mexican Museum Colonial Collection” opening Friday, Feb. 19, at the Fort Mason Center gallery.
For more information, go to www.mexicanmuseum.org.