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ST. LOUIS-The $130.5 million expansion of the Saint Louis Art Museum received the green light from the Board of Commissioners on Monday night. The expansion plan was originally supposed to begin in the second half of 2008, but was delayed for more than a year as a result of the recession.

“This project will strengthen the existing Museum, clarify the use of space, and create a new architectural whole that encompasses both old and new within the Art Museum’s extraordinary setting in Forest Park,” says David Chipperfield, architect of the project. “We sought not only to maintain its Sculpture Hall as the symbolic heart of the Museum but to create a strong relationship between landscape and architecture.”

Construction is expected to start immediately and will last two years. Plans call for adding 200,000 square feet to the structure, with an addition to the east and south of the current building. The new space will accommodate new galleries, public space as well as a below-grade parking garage with 300 spaces.

Additionally, the Cass Gilbert building will be renovated. The space will better accommodate the permanent collection galleries, a classroom and public space. A school and group entrance will be opened on the South side of the museum.

“David Chipperfield’s design pays thoughtful and elegant homage to Cass Gilbert while creating gracious new spaces to house the Museum’s extraordinary holdings,” says museum director Brent Benjamin.

The original building was built in 1904. The new portion will increase the faculty’s gallery size by 30% and double the amount of parking. General contractors include Tarlton Corp. KAI Design & Build and Pepper Construction Group.

The Forest Park museum will remain open during the development. The museum began raising funds for the expansion in 2004 and raised more than $135 million in commitments. No tax funds are being used on the development.

In November 2008, the Museum’s Board of Commissioners opted to postpone the project until the economy showed signs of recovery.

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