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Downtown Officials Seek Public's Help in Reimagining the Promenade
By Jorge Casuso
April 17, 2018 -- Three decades after the newly christened Third Street Promenade began pumping new life into Santa Monica's moribund central shopping strip, Downtown officials are seeking the public's help reimagining its future.
With its paving, benches, fountains and landscaping showing signs of age and its once thriving retail stores struggling to compete in a world where shopping is increasing done online, officials said the time has come for major intervention.
On Wednesday, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) will hold the first of three Third Street Promenade 3.0 Community Workshops at 6:30 p.m. at 1212 Restaurant, 1212 Third Street Promenade.
The workshops -- which will feature experts experts in urban design, placemaking, retail, and customer engagement -- are "designed to spark conversation and build a vision to help steer capital improvements and programming," Downtown officials said in a statement.
The meetings will focus not only on physical upgrades, but on potential planning strategies and efforts to help shape how one of the nation's most popular business districts is used, said DTSM Executive Director Kathleen Rawson.
"We want to create a space that encourages positive social interaction," Rawson said. "We want to know what people like about the places they've been, how they use the space, what paths people are taking."
Those issues will be discussed in the first workshop, which will be presented by Kevin Kelley, co-founding partner and principal of Shook Kelley, who will focus on the value of placemaking.
"Kelley's specialty is getting inside the minds of consumers to determine how the physical environment affects consumer behavior and purchase decisions," Downtown officials said.
"He is also especially adept at helping consumer-based organizations re-think how they innovate their 'go to market' strategies."
This challenge -- which is especially important in an era when traditional brick-and-morter stores are losing business to internet-based sales -- will be further explored in the second workshop on May 1, Rawson said.
The workshop's focus will be on "how shopping is changing, how retail is changing and what we can do with the physical space to make iit more vibrant."
While office rentals are driving Downtown's leasing market, it is the restaurants and shops on the ground floor is that lures visitors to the strip, officials said.
One of the challenges, Rawson said, is "how can we keep that vital? What kind of activities and uses can change tthe potential dynamic."
The third workshop on May 15 will explore how "the space would be used in the future" and the kinds of planning decisions that "encourage or discourage pedestrian traffic through the Downtown," Rawson said.
She added that the eventual funding for physical improvements -- which will likely be more modest that in the past -- will likely come from the public-private partnership that has steered the transformation of Third Street for nearly 30 years.
"I'm excited by this," Rawson said. "This is a light re invigoration of the street. It's not a twenty-year plan."
For a history of the Promenade see "Santa Monica Promenade Celebrates 25 Years: The Ingredients for Success," September 15, 2014
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