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Santa Monica Moves Ahead with Plans for Dream Site Eyed by the State

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

May 30, 2013 -- Three years after its purchase, the process of turning the largest undeveloped City-owned parcel in Downtown Santa Monica into a new town center is well under way despite the prospect of a state-mandated sale.

Even though half the property -- which was purchased by the City's Redevelopment Agency (RDA) -- is being eyed by the State for possible sale after the dissolution of RDAs, City staff is hard at work determining which of three plans submitted May 1 is best suited for the three-acre site at Fourth Street and Arizona Avenue.

Still, it's too early for City staff to talk about the details of the proposals, each presented by teams headed by three major real estate firms: Forest City, Metropolitan Pacific Capital/Clarett West Development and Related California.

“I don't want to get too specific,” said Economic Development Manager Jason Harris. But, “they are all mixed-use developments.” He added that they also all meet the general spirit of what the City is seeking.

That “spirit” includes a minimum of 339 public parking spaces, “ground-floor retail, restaurant and cultural uses that animate the area,” according to City staff. It also includes a plaza that could be a regular gathering space for the community.

“We don't just want an open space,” said Harris. “We want something that's programmable.”

The plaza could host concerts and other events, including Santa Monica's annual winter ice-skating rink.

Even though it has been three years since the City bought the property, the process is still in its initial stages.

So far, Harris said, the three teams -- chosen from 12 original candidates who submitted proposals last year -- have made presentations and are being evaluated by a multi-departmental panel. “We'll be looking to maximize community benefits,” said Harris.

Starting in early 2011, the City began a lengthy community input process in order to get an idea of what residents wanted from the site.

In a few months, the panel will present its recommendation to the City Council, Harris said. “Once we do make a selection and if the Council endorses it, we would enter into negotiation process,” he said

But that would only be the beginning of the public process, since the Council endorsement would only determine which of the three developers would lease the land based on initial plans.

Then, the public input process would begin. “The selection of the developer and ultimately the community process is going to be fairly extensive,” Harris said.

“Everything is going to be modified along the way,” he said. “The initial proposal is the starting basis to start that dialogue.”

Although the City is moving forward with development plans, it is still unclear if the State will try and force a sale of the properties that comprise roughly 1.5 acres Santa Monica's RDA from private and non-profit owners.

Under the purchase contracts, the RDA agreed to pay the former owners over the course of three decades. As a result, City officials believe that the State won't make the City sell off the property to help pay for RDA debts, since little revenue would be left over from the sale.

Still, developing a property management plan that spells out for the State how the property would be developed in the future will likely be worked into any leasing arrangement with a developer, officials said.

In November, the Council signed off on the request for proposal (RFP) process, giving the go-ahead for the three teams to compete to see whose vision best fit for the site.

Related California, currently developing the Civic Center Village, teamed up with Community Corporation of Santa Monica and Koning Eizenberg Architecture, a local firm with former Planning Commissioner Hank Koning as one of its principals.

Forest City leads a team that includes Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Brooks + Scarpa Architecture. Metropolitan Pacific Capital (MPC) leads the team with Clarett West Development, DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners, Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Van Tilberg, Banvard & Soderbergh, AIA and OLIN.

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