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Bilbao locals say an art museum helped save their city from decline.With the initial lease set to expire, the U.S.-based Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced Dec. 9 that it was signing on to run its museum in the northern port city for another 20 years.The banks of Bilbao's Nervion river were grotty and dirty, dotted with abandoned factories before the project was launched that led to the Guggenheim opening in 1997 .Controversial at the time, the $170-million museum was part of a plan to transform the city and diversify its economy.The Guggenheim directly or indirectly employs 5,000 people, officials say, and has brought in three-and-a-half billion euros ($4.3 billion) in revenues to the region.Other cities have since imitated the "Bilbao effect" though not all have succeeded.
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