Salt Lake City's recently precarious partnership with The Leonardo has settled onto more stable ground.

Mayor Ralph Becker pledged Thursday to hold off on seeking other uses for the old city library until "every effort is made for The Leonardo to be successful" in the building at 209 E. 500 South.

"We want to make this work," Becker said during a meeting with Leonardo officials. "We want something (in the old library building) that reflects success for both the city and The Leonardo."

Becker said he believes the proposed arts, science and culture center can be the right fit for the city-owned building.

"We need to make sure the city's fiscal responsibility is reflected and that the building is renovated to the city's standards and in a way that serves the city for a long time," the mayor said.

It's a softer stance than Becker took earlier in the week, when Leonardo officials presented to the City Council scaled-back renovation plans. The proposed work, museum officials said, could be completed with the $10.2 million general-obligation bond approved by voters in 2003.

Concerns about the cost estimates and revenue projections in the revised plan led Becker to call for city staff to immediately begin exploring alternate uses for the building.

The City Council followed the mayor's lead and opted to hold off on issuing the bond money until the new plan could be more closely analyzed. City and Leonardo officials agreed Thursday to review together the renovation's cost estimates.

"Your goal is the same as ours," said Allen Roberts, a Leonardo board member. "We don't want to go forward ourselves if we aren't going to be successful."

The meeting was held without Peter Giles, new executive director of The Leonardo, leading to questions about the role of the veteran museum planner and developer.

Giles, who lives out of state, was noncommittal Tuesday night when asked by the City Council if he planned to relocate to head The Leonardo.

"It's very difficult to proceed in a state of ambiguity," he said. "You don't have a situation quite yet for me or any other person who has experience to say, 'I'm going to relocate."'

Becker asked about Giles' commitment to the project during Thursday's meeting, saying the city needs to have confidence in The Leonardo's leadership for the partnership to work.

Roberts said The Leonardo has a retreat planned for its staff and board members next week, and that's one of the issues that will be discussed.

"We don't know how long he'll be the executive director," Roberts said of Giles. "We may need to find a full-time (director) who lives here."

Becker said he plans to appoint to his staff someone with expertise in museum development to coordinate with Leonardo officials.

"The city isn't in the museum business, and I don't think we're going to get into that business," he said. "We need someone who has a range of expertise so we have a better understanding of what we're going to do (as partners with The Leonardo)."


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