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ICA looking to enlarge its Fan Pier footprint

Museum wants to add space in adjacent tower

The Fan Pier development, as seen under construction in December 2014 adjacent to the Institute of Contemporary Art.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Nine years after moving into its waterfront building, the Institute of Contemporary Art is hoping to expand into an adjacent office tower and increase its gallery space by a third.

At the heart of a proposal before the Boston Redevelopment Authority is the museum’s effort to take up two floors worth of space in a 17-story tower being developed across the street by the Fallon Co., probably linked by a sky bridge. The expansion would increase the museum’s usable footprint by 19,000 square feet.

“We’ve been waiting 10 years for development to move forward” on the waterfront, said Richard McGuinness, the BRA’s deputy director for waterfront planning. “Now that it is, we’re happy the ICA is ready to expand, and we’re glad we have additional space to give to them.”


Reached by phone in Venice on Thursday, ICA director Jill Medvedow estimated that the proposed expansion would cost $10 million to $12 million, roughly equivalent to the institution’s $11.6 million operating budget.

“It’s going to be quite reasonable,” she said. “We don’t have to build a building or put up a structure; we have to build out the space.”

She called the proposed expansion a major step toward advancing the museum’s mission.

“We are responding to the need we’re hearing from our visitors for more art, more art of our time,” Medvedow said. “We have had a strategy for growth since we opened, keeping our eye out to be part of the conversation on the waterfront.”

The BRA on Thursday announced a community meeting on May 21 to discuss the proposed expansion and broader plans for other museums in the fast-changing area known as the Innovation District.

“The public meeting is really just informational,” said McGuinness, who added that the meeting will detail plans for the New England Aquarium, the Boston Children’s Museum, and the Boston Harbor Island Alliance to share a 17,000-square-foot space on the South Boston Waterfront.


“Those institutions have decided to group together,” McGuinness said.

He said the proposal, which would increase overall cultural and civic space on Fan Pier by 4,000 feet, will have to be approved by the Department of Environmental Protection, which issues permits for the area.

The BRA’s municipal harbor plan, adopted in 2000, originally called for 127,000 square feet of cultural and civic spaces distributed across Fan Pier and Pier 4. The ICA’s proposed expansion is part of a shuffling by the BRA of those spaces.

“We didn’t know the ICA would thrive as it has and have a need to grow,” McGuinness said. “We’re just moving the space around to accommodate the ICA’s expansion.”

The museum, a 65,000-square-foot structure that opened at 100 Northern Ave. in 2006, boasts 17,000 square feet of galleries. The proposed expansion would include 6,000 square feet of gallery area in a double-height space in the adjoining building. A sky bridge, Medvedow said, would give visitors a seamless experience of the two spaces.

“The remaining space is going to be program-related back of house, curatorial study space, conservation, curatorial offices,” Medvedow said.

The ICA’s planned expansion would make it the latest example in a striking building boom among art museums in the Boston area. The Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Harvard Art Museums have all undergone significant expansions in recent years, at a total cost of more than $800 million.


Since the ICA opened at its waterfront site in 2006, it has drawn approximately 2 million visitors, a cultural oasis in a neighborhood that has become one of Boston’s hottest spots for development.

Medvedow said the museum has been planning to expand for years, keeping a close eye on building developments to ensure the museum was well positioned to grow.

“Our vision preceded the development opportunity, but we are nimble and jumped at the chance,” Medvedow said. “It means the ICA gets to continue on this important trajectory as a leader in Boston for art and ideas from the world.”

The ICA does not have firm architectural plans for the expansion, but Medvedow said the museum is exploring ideas with Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, the same architecture firm that designed the ICA’s building.

She said that the proposed expansion comes as the museum continues to build its permanent collection and is looking to expand its performance, education, and gallery programming.

“Our collection is growing, and our programs are growing,” Medvedow said, adding that the expansion would allow the museum to increase and consolidate its family and teen education programs.

“Our teen programs are at capacity, so we need more space,” she said. “We’ve earned it.”

Malcolm Gay can be reached at malcolm.gay@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @malcolmgay.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, the name of Richard McGuinness was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.