March 7 -- Seven years after embarking on an ambitious
plan to redevelop Santa Monica Place, the Macerich Company on Tuesday
submitted a modest proposal to the City to tear the roof and doors
off the indoor mall and connect it to the Third Street Promenade.
The remodel -- which features an open-air center court and a third-floor
food court overlooking the Pacific -- comes two years after the
City Council rejected plans for a major redevelopment that included
three 21-story condo towers.
|Palm Plaza (Images courtesy of The Jerde
Under the new proposal, Macy’s department store, as well
as the two public parking structures totaling nearly 2,000 spaces,
will stay open during construction, which is slated to start in
a year and completed by fall 2009, mall officials said.
The proposed remodel was shaped with input from residents who attended
a series of meetings last year after the City Council sent Macerich
back to the drawing table.
“What we have is an evolution. . . based on what the community
wanted,” said Robert Aptaker, Macerich’s vice president
of development. “We really wanted there to be an iconic addition
to Santa Monica’s Downtown.
“We want it to fit in with what Santa Monicans expect of
Downtown, what they would like to see for the Downtown,” Aptaker
said. “It’s going to bring a new architectural language
to the property.”
Designed by world-renown architect Frank Gehry, the 27-year-old
mall has long been viewed as a bulky fortress blocking the path
between the thriving Promenade to the north and the Civic Center,
which is slated for major development, to the south.
|Third Street Entrance
The goal of the remodel is to integrate the three-story structure
-- which occupies two city blocks -- with the surrounding streets,
open it up to the sky and tie it to the pier and ocean just a short
stroll away, mall officials said.
“Today the mall is closed and inward facing,” Aptaker
said. “We want to open it up to the sky, the neighborhood
and the streets. What it’s about is connections, and taking
the doors off goes a long way to that.”
Unlike the scrapped proposal that called for hundreds of housing
units, an office building and a roof-top park, the current plan
remains within the existing footprint, mall officials said.
“There won’t be an expansion,” Aptaker said.
“We’re taking an urban shopping center and making it
better… We want to de-emphasize the uniformity of the mall
and emphasize the stores, make it feel more what it feels like walking
the streets in Santa Monica.”
Although there has been strong interest, mall officials have not
decided what stores will lease the more than 100 spaces in the 570,000-square-foot
structure, Aptaker said. Macerich has also not yet decided whether
it will carve additional shops from of the old Robinson’s
May space bought by the company.
But mall officials said they will take to heart the suggestions
of residents and community leaders.
“It will be somewhere residents can go to shop for everyday
needs,” said Robyn Young, senior manager of development relations
for Macerich. “We think we can help compliment the retailers
The proposed remodel will include an open-air central court Macerich
officials hope will become a meeting place for local residents and
a food court on a rooftop veranda with “great views that will
be a special place in Santa Monica,” Young said.
The mall will also feature a children’s area, public art
installations and family restrooms, Young said.
After receiving the proposal Tuesday, City officials will review
the package and determine the level of environmental review the
project must undergo, Aptaker said.
The proposal will then go before the City’s Redevelopment
Agency, Architectural Review Board and Arts Commission, as well
as the California Coastal Commission.
We hope to finish in late fall and start construction a year from
now,” Aptaker said.
While the mall giant, which is headquartered in Downtown Santa
Monica, owns some 70 malls nationwide, the Santa Monica Place remodel
is special, Macerich officials said.
“This is a big project for Macerich,” he added. “It’s
in our own backyard, and we have a lot of pride.”