The Jersey City Council adopted a resolution approving a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and French museum Centre Pompidou that would open a location in Journal Square.
But councilmembers and members of the public were apprehensive about the price tag associated with getting the new museum up and running.
“I’m absolutely appalled by this Pompidou thing. I think it should be called Pompidon’t,” said resident Jeanne Daly. “We can’t even afford our school budget. Why are we spending money on this vanity project?”
According to the agreement, Jersey City would pay about $5.6 million for the first three phases of the project.
The first phase will cost approximately $285,000. In this four-month phase, staff based in Paris will be recruited to operationally support the Pathside Project, as the city, JCRA, and Pompidou create a plan for the museum.
In the 10-month second phase, which will cost approximately $1,9 million, Centre Pompidou will create the organizational structure and governance as well as a broad business plan for the new museum. In this phase the Centre Pompidou will help create a high-level capability building plan, educational programs, an audience development roadmap, and communication strategy.
During the approximately, $3.3 million third phase the Centre Pompidou will help JCRA prepare for the grand opening.
During the 15-month phase, Centre Pompidou will “further detail deliverables handled during Phase 2” and assist with recruitment and staff from the Centre Pompidou to run training and coaching sessions for future local teams.
Phase four will start with the opening of the artistic and cultural hub. Over the next five years the city will pay Centre Pompidou approximately $5.9 million per year.
This $5.9 million includes a yearly branding fee of $2.3 million for the right of use of the name “Centre Pompidou,” a yearly fee of about $653,000 for the Centre Pompidou’s expertise and consulting, a yearly fee of about $2 million for works and contribution to the organization of exhibitions, and a yearly fee of approximately $831,000 for HR contributions.
Those annual fees could decrease over the five-year deal with the Pompidou, according to the MOU, but if the city were to pay the $5.9 million per year, that would amount to a total of about $30 million over the five-year time period not including money for the first three phases to get the project off the ground.
The above costs do not include the “material dimensions” of the exhibits, according to the MOU, including transportation, insurance, copyrights and related promotion rights, maintenance, or programming for performing arts; all of which the city or JCRA will pay for separately.
Nor do the costs cover renovations to the Pathside Building where the new museum will be located, which, according to council documents, could cost an estimated $15 million.
According to the city, the deal with Centre Pompidou could be offset with developer contributions and ticket sales, but as Councilman James Solomon pointed out, so far, the council has no idea what that looks like.
Solomon said “I’ve been very sort of torn on this issue,” before voting to adopt the MOU, noting that the city would now have six months to finalize an agreement with Centre Pompidou which should include more financial data and analysis.
Councilman Rolando Lavarro also said that so far there has been no financial analysis for the project showing how the new museum would benefit the city.
He said that when the city purchased the property in 2018 for $10 million, he was told the city could sell it for $25 million and receive a profit, but “With this $15 million, we are now essentially exceeding that $25 million cost,” Lavarro said
He said the city needs to get its priorities in order, noting that the money could be used for necessities such as school funding.
“This is again a vanity project we can’t afford,” Lavarro. said. “It is not to say we shouldn’t have it. We should have beautiful things. We should have beautiful art … but we have to get our priorities straight here.”
Lavarro was the lone dissenting vote. The resolution supporting the MOU was adopted 8-1.