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Landmark Redevelopment Proposed Downtown

By Jorge Casuso

November 16 - The owners of Santa Monica Place will publicly unveil this week one of the most astonishing development projects the city has seen in decades, The Lookout has learned.

The proposed project -- which will be unveiled at the Bayside District board meeting Thursday -- would level the indoor shopping mall and replace it with towering condos, rental units, a large office complex and a public park, all perched above shops and restaurants, according to plans submitted to the City's Planning Department earlier this month.

View from office building toward restaurants and residential areas.

Heeding the wishes of City officials, the plan extends the Third Street Promenade an extra block to Colorado Avenue and connects the site -- currently occupied by the struggling 24-year old indoor shopping mall -- to the Civic Center and the pier through spacious entryways.

"The project creates a uniquely blended space for living, working, and playing," Venice-based JERDE Architecture and Urban Design wrote in its introduction to the plans.

"By extending and enhancing the Third Street Promenade, energizing connections between key Santa Monica landmarks, and reintroducing nature into the urban environment, the new Santa Monica Place will redefine the beauty and character that make Santa Monica such a desirable location," the architects wrote.

View from Third Street and Broadway.

The project, which would require a development agreement because it far exceeds the height limits for the Downtown, includes 450 housing units in three 21-story condo towers and a seven-story rental complex between Third and Fourth streets.

The project also calls for a seven-story, 85,000-square-foot office complex on the corner of Broadway and Second Street and a sprawling public park and outdoor food courts and restaurants between Second and Third streets.

Two levels occupied by two department stores and shops would serve as a "podium" for the housing, offices, restaurants and parkscape, while four levels of underground parking offer "state of the art convenience and efficiency," ushering visitors via escalators up to the Promenade.

One of the plan's most striking features is the parkscape, which is lined with outdoor eateries, and provides sweeping ocean and street views as it slopes down towards the street.

"The creation of a stunning expanse of parkscape atop the two-story retail podium's roof will provide an inner urban space with unprecedented access to ocean views, green space and light," according to the plans.

"This parkscape will consist of a public park along the western side of the Promenade extension and will reach down to Broadway and the corner of Second Street and Colorado Avenue, inviting pedestrians up from the pier and its environs.

"Visitors, residents, and their families can enjoy nature and community events, eat at a food court and outdoor restaurants, play and relax, while taking in views of the Third Street extension and the ocean," the architects wrote.

View from Second Street and Colorado Avenue.

The new plan comes 2 1/2 years after Macerich and City officials hammered out a strategy to tear down Santa Monica Place, bounded by 2nd and 4th streets and Colorado Avenue and Broadway, and stretch the thriving Promenade an extra block to the Civic Center.

Once a cutting-edge indoor shopping venue, Santa Monica Place has been struggling to survive in a world of outdoor malls, such as the Third Street Promenade, which has been steadily siphoning business.

The original plan, which called for keeping the two anchor department stores intact, added between 150 and 450 housing units and as many as 100,000 square feet of office space and moved the parking underground.

City officials gave the plan an enthusiastic thumbs-up at a special joint meeting of the City Council, the Promenade Uses Task Force and the Civic Center Working Group in June 2002.

But a year later, Macerich unveiled a scaled back version of the plan, saying the original strategy would be far too costly. The alternate plan called for a facelift slated to be completed in two years that would open up the existing mall and move the food court to a third-floor patio with ocean views.

Under the plan, new upscale stores would replace exiting merchants, a move Macerich officials said would create additional vacancies in a mall that was already "hemorrhaging."
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