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The Mullikin Medical building on 183rd and Bloomfield, the new home for the Astor Museum. The City will spend $6.7 million to renovate the building to house the Astor Family Collection of vintage cars and other items. Photo by Brian Hews.


By Brian Hews

The Cerritos City Council is finally going to get the museum it has always coveted since 2004, at a cost of $6.7 million, with $3.64 million in funding coming from California and insurance proceeds.

City documents indicate the remaining $3 million will be funded through the Redevelopment Property Tax Trust Fund.

The Astor Family Foundation and Arthur Astor approached the city sometime last year offering to donate over $3 million in vintage cars and other antique valuables if the city would renovate the Mullikin building on 183rd and Bloomfield to “museum status” to house the Astor Collection.

The collection includes, among other things, 31 fully restored vintage automobiles, 231 vintage radios, 82 vintage telephones, and over 200 other items.

The collection is apparently already in Cerritos, housed at 12880 Moore St., with all moving costs associated with the collection paid by the City.

The first estimate, in February of this year, placed the cost of renovating the 33,258 square foot two-story building at $3.7 million. It later jumped to $6.7 million.

Cerritos City Council staff documents indicate that $640,000 in funds would come from California and $3 million would come from insurance funds due to past “vandalism and theft” on the Mullikin building.

The documents at that time stated, “insurance funds will be utilized to repair the damage that the building has sustained and are anticipated to be sufficient to facilitate the renovation of the building.”

The Cerritos Council immediately jumped at the offer and drafted a lengthy and detailed Museum Agreement (MA) between the City and the Astor Family Foundation.

In consideration of the Astor collection donation, the MA stipulates that Astor will have access to and operate the museum for a period of five years.

The MA also stipulates that, “the period shall be for five, unless Astor seeks to extend the agreement.”

Astor will not pay rent, and will not be charged for electricity or water during those five years.

At $2 per square foot, taking out non-office space, annual rent would calculate out to over $600,000 per year.

City documents estimate the water and electricity usage to be $65,000 per year.

All tolled, Astor will save over $3.325 million over the five-year span, and that is only on the expense side of the MA.

Under the MA, Astor will be allowed to hold “special events” at the museum and keep all revenue generated by those special events. Astor can also charge admission fees into the museum and keep 100% of the proceeds

Astor simply has to pay for the cost of holding the events, keeping the museum open, and maintaining the inside of the building during the year.

According to the MA, the City will pay to maintain the entire collection, pay for property insurance coverage on the facility and the collection, maintain the landscape, and provide security.

The City, however, will be allowed to hold special events at the museum, only paying for “their own special event expenses.”

In 2006, the O.C. Register interviewed Astor about the museum he operated in Anaheim. Astor told the OCR, “I probably lose $1.5 million a year on this place.”

In that same article, Joe McPherson, with a garage that houses several vintage cars said, “We didn’t plan on being nonprofit, but we are. Very few (collections) make money. I don’t know of a museum that hasn’t had outside help to survive.”

Priscilla “Bo” Marconi, executive director of the $30 million Ferrari collection, said Astor and others like him compete with special-event venues ranging from the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana to the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda.

“It’s great to open his great collection, but it’s not easy,” Marconi said.

City Takes Over in Five Years

Under the MA , the City would take over the museum, along with the collection, from the Astor family in five years.

City documents estimates the cost of operating the museum at $400,000 annually and includes staffing, utilities, insurance, and ongoing mainteneance.

The cost estimates take into account the “robust volunteer program” within the City that will “keep staffing at a minimum.”

The City will employ a Division Manager and Secretary and two full time equivalent contract positions at a cost of $294,000 annually.

“General facility operating expenses” are estimated to be $15,000 annually with utilities pegged at $65,000. Other expenses bring the total to $400,000.

To cover the annual expenses the City will establish an endowment fund “eliminating the need for use of a general fund subsidy.”

The City listed several sources of funding including $200,000 in advertising proceeds from a “future electronic freeway sign,” admission fees, facility rental revenue and patron donations.

HMG-CN learned this past Thursday  that the City sold a building at 13043 166th for $3.5 million, the proceeds from that sale will be placed in the endowment fund and presumably fund the museum for an estimated 7 years.