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Construction crews work on Santa Monica Place on Second Street on Wednesday. Officials with the mall's owner, Macerich Co., are seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The mall is scheduled to open Aug. 6, 2010. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — When Santa Monica Place reopens late next summer with a new look, it will do so with the distinction of being one of the few certified environmentally-friendly shopping centers in the country.

Parent company Macerich announced recently that it’s targeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the 550,000-square-foot mall, a designation awarded to projects that meet certain sustainability criteria set by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The mall will come with environmental features that range from solar panels to water-efficient landscaping. The project is also expected to score points for being a redevelopment project rather than new construction, building around the existing super structure.

The U.S. Green Building Council could also award points for the cut in energy costs expected from changing the mall from a climatized indoor center to outdoors, taking advantage of natural light and ventilation. The solar panels installed on the mall are expected to generate enough energy to power 90 homes.

Bob Aptaker, the vice president of development for Macerich, said the focus on sustainability goes back to a promise made during the community meetings when residents expressed they wanted the project to have sensitivity toward the environment.

“This project is really about fitting in with the community and having a project that fits within that urban fabric,” Aptaker said. “It was very important to give the consumers what they want.”

Achieving LEED certification is considered rare among shopping centers because of the complexities with involving a large number of tenants who offer a diversity of services, whether it’s retail, office or dining.

Jeff Bedell, the vice president of sustainability for Macerich, said the “holy grail” of sustainable development and redevelopment is a key partnership between the owner, developer, tenants and anchors because it’s what will allow a long-term sustainable building.

“It’s that same issue that causes the complication because without a partnership and agreement as to how green or how sustainable everyone wants to be, it becomes difficult to get all those parties to the table and do those things,” Bedell said.

Along with the sustainable features of the mall itself, tenants will also be required to green their businesses.

The tenants, including names like Michael Kors and True Religion, will be required to use waterless urinals, low-flow water fixtures, and “Low E” glass, which are designed to bring in less heat, for the storefront windows. Restaurants will be required to use non CFC refrigerators.

Macerich will also encourage tenants to use Energy Star equipment, materials that were produced within 500 miles of the mall and renewable construction material like bamboo and cork.

“The goal is to push us in the direction where we’re working with retailers, working with anchors to form that partnership up front and be able to actually go in and develop a property start to finish with everyone at the same point and same page,” Bedell said.

The Frank Gehry-designed mall opened in the 1980s and at its prime served as a thriving partner to the Third Street Promenade. Vibrancy however went away in the past few years as tenants moved or were put on shorter-term leases while Macerich, which purchased the mall in 1999, made plans to give the enclosed shopping center some new life, adopting the tag line “a star is reborn.”

The mall will be anchored by Bloomingdale’s on the southeast corner and Nordstrom on the northwest. Tenants who have come on board include XINO Restaurant + Lounge, Zengo, Ted Baker and Swarovski.

The mall is scheduled to open on Aug. 6, 2010.