MY WRITE — Next month, the City Council will review plans for the redevelopment of the Bergamot Station Arts Center.
At issue is to whether the present, “funky but hip” Bergamot Arts complex should exist pretty much as is or be totally redeveloped as an upscale arts center with underground parking, new galleries, an arts/educational center, chic restaurants and cafes; a six floor boutique hotel, office space and a new, bigger home for the Santa Monica Museum of Art
Opinions vary widely on Bergamot’s future – after all this is Santa Monica.
The present day Bergamot Station Arts center is a 62,000 square foot, five building complex on 5.6 acres at 2525 Michigan Avenue. City Hall purchased the land in 1989 for the future transit needs of the city. Also involved is an integrated, approximately two acre property privately owned by Bergamot gallery owner Wayne Blank.
Expo Light Rail – with a stop nearby at Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street – will start operation in early 2016. City Hall planners knew this would be an excellent time to redevelop the site especially since the entire Bergamot area was being repurposed and upgraded from primarily industrial to a broader array of uses including housing, commercial and creative office, transit, arts and entertainment related functions.
On November 27, 2012, council directed staff to issue a Request for Proposals from the top three development teams that had met qualifications in a developer evaluation process. On February 25, 2014, staff recommended that 26Street TOD Partners, LLC be retained to redevelop the arts complex. Parameters set forth by City Hall for the art center’s redevelopment called for at least 75,000 square feet of arts-related space affordable to non-profit cultural organizations and for for-profit art galleries and space for the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
Open spaces and amenities to support public access to the light rail station were specified along with a general improvement of the environment that preserved existing buildings where feasible. Uses such as hotel, restaurant/bars, creative office space and cultural functions that would create a vibrant development where also mandated.
Conditions included parking with an emphasis on shared parking opportunities, ground leases based upon fair market values (Minimum $610,000 rent per year to City Hall), exceptional architecture and a sustainable but functional design with a focus toward transit-oriented development and in harmony the recently approved Bergamot Area master plan.
At the February 25 meeting, after a lively discussion which covered parking and preservation of the 30 some existing galleries/arts related businesses, staff was directed to conduct additional research and come back to council with a final recommendation on a future developer and a more defined vision of the “new” Bergamot Arts Center.
Tomorrow night, City Council will determine whether the new Bergamot Arts Center will be small and neighborhood-friendly or an overblown arts complex that doesn’t meet community needs.
Parking at the new arts complex needs to be addressed. Should it be on-premises or should a 500 to 1,000 car garage be built on the adjacent city yard? On-site subterranean parking would be a plus but would necessitate closing galleries for at least a year during construction.
The hotel is another issue of contention. No hotel or small inn or full service, 68,777 sq. ft, 93 room, six floor hotel with food and alcohol facilities?
Lastly, is a significantly upgraded arts complex going to still be affordable and accessible for the average citizen? Or, will it become a regional arts, entertainment and cultural events magnet for the hoity-toity? Many locals, like me, want to keep it affordable and not see it turn into an upscale, overpriced tourist attraction.
I’m hoping for the former but, knowing this “bigger is better” City Council, I’m fearing the latter.

Callahan’s is closing

The new owners of the property at 1213 Wilshire Boulevard (where Callahan’s Restaurant is currently located) has applied for a Type 47 conditional use permit (CUP) to allow “on-site sale and consumption of beer, wine and spirits in a general eating place.” It’s before the Planning Commission Wednesday, August 27.
Callahan’s will shutter at year’s end. It will be missed just like all the other reasonably-priced coffee shops that catered to an older, established neighborhood clientele that have closed in the last few years. Yes, friends, the hipsters are taking over.
The address has no on-site parking. If this new bistro is successful and becomes popular, expect complaints from neighbors about noise, traffic and parking problems, especially at night when this new eatery will probably be busiest. Keep in mind that Callahan’s closes early and doesn’t serve alcohol. Planning commissioners, especially those three folks running for City Council, must say, “last call” on this alcohol CUP unless they want another neighborhood nuisance like Palihouse, South or The Parlor.

Bozo on a Bike

A week ago Friday evening, a number of pedestrians and I were crossing Wilshire Boulevard in the eastern crosswalk coming from the Third Street Promenade. We had the green light and “OK to cross” signal. A woman in her 20′s westbound on Wilshire on a bicycle swerved in front of us, cutting us off and then swerved back into the northside Wilshire crosswalk at Third, ran the red light – causing vehicles southbound on Third Street to stop – and rode blithely on toward Ocean Avenue.
At times like this, one wishes a cop were around. This self-absorbed, two-wheeled menace wins … drum roll, please … my “Bozo on a Bike” Award for August, 2014.

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Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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