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New Frank Gehry Design for Santa Monica Makes Public Debut Tonight

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

January 11, 2018 -- With its 22 stories loped nearly in half, Frank Gehry’s newest version for a mixed-used tower on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica goes to the public for an official unveiling today -- the first of a trio of large and tall projects the City says must be cut down from their original size.

Located at 101 Santa Monica Boulevard, the project is no longer the 22-story, plume-like structure that triggered both high praise and dismay when first proposed five years ago ("Santa Monica Residents Respond to Proposed Gehry Building," March 22, 2013).

On display are renderings for Gehry’s hotel-mixed use “Ocean Avenue Project” which show much the same design, but for a building which is 12 stories instead.

New Gehry design for Ocean Avenue
New Gehry design for Ocean Avenue (Renderings courtesy Gehry Partners, LLP)

The community gets a closer look at the new renderings at 7 p.m. meeting in the multi-purpose room of the Santa Monica Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard.

Gehry released the new design in response to a downtown development plan, adopted by the City Council in July, that caps the height at the site, and two other nearby locations with large proposed projects, at 130 feet.

“Now that the Downtown Community Plan has been enacted, this revised proposal has been submitted in compliance with the standards for seeking discretionary approval for a project on this site,” the City’s Department of Planning and Community Development said in detailing the revised blueprints.

The project is 317,500 square feet on about two acres at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue.

It now has 115 rooms (fewer than its original) and 79 residential apartments that include 19 replacement rent-controlled units, 18 affordable units and 42 market-rate units, according to City staff.

Also included is 24,700 square feet in retail space, a 5,000 square-foot public observation deck on top of the hotel building, approximately 25 percent open space at the ground level and subterranean parking.

The project also includes retention and rehabilitation of two City-designated Landmark buildings.

Gehry's original design for Ocean Avenue
Gehry's original design for Ocean Avenue

When Gehry's original 22-story design was unveiled at a public meeting March 2013 the architect told the Lookout that he expected height to be "an issue."

“We tried to mitigate those concerns,” he said. “Frankly, no one's asked me to build one of those boxy buildings.”

At the time, Gehry said he was excited to design another building in his hometown on a street that “always stood out to me as the face of the City” ("New Gehry Building Planned in Downtown Santa Monica," March 1, 2013).

If approved, the Ocean Avenue project would be Gehry's fourth building in Santa Monica.

Gehry designed the Edgemar Retail Complex on Main Street, which was built in 197,1 and Santa Monica Place, which opened in 1980 and was completely renovated in 2008 to turn the original air-conditioned structure into an outdoor mall.

Gehry also designed his house on 22nd Street and Washington Avenue, which was widely regarded as cutting edge -- and controversial -- when it was built in 1971. One neighbor even fired a gun at the structure.

Gehry’s latest Santa Monica project will require a Development Agreement from the City Council, as will the two other large projects still in wings.

They are the 568,940-square foot redevelopment of the Fairmont-Miramar Hotel, which originally topped out at 21 stories, and the “Plaza at Santa Monica,” a hotel-mixed use development on City-owned land which slow-growth proponents want turned into parkland.


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