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PHILADELPHIA-Principals of the Philadelphia Museum of Art unveiled plans for a $500-million investment over 10 years to expand, renovate and repair the 633,835-sf museum at 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway along with a nearby property. Key to the plan is an 80,000-sf addition of underground exhibition space.

To foot the bill, the museum plans to raise $300 million in private donations and obtain $200 million from the city and state. Mayor John Street has suggested the city would be willing to issue between $30 million and $40 million in bonds. Conversion of the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building into galleries is already under way, “and already funded,” a museum spokesman tells GlobeSt.com. That project is being undertaken with funds from a $12.5-million state grant, awarded in late 2002, and it is scheduled to open in 2007.

The ongoing expansion will take place in five phases, all without closing the museum. The new exhibit area requires a 30-foot-deep excavation to accommodate galleries high-ceilinged enough for large sculptures. It is to be carved out from under the front plaza that faces Eakins Oval. The existing structure, completed in 1928, will undergo significant repair. By utilizing underground space, art is protected from the sun and the view of the current building will remain intact.

The steps made famous in the first “Rocky” movie will also remain, and the front plaza will be restored following expansion. The plan also calls for construction of a 400-space underground parking garage, additional space for the museum’s collection of Asian art, more prominent exhibition of American art and more classrooms for children and adults. The spokesman confirms a published report that the project will increase overall display space by 60%. No architect has yet been selected, and no timeframe set for the beginning of construction.

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