(photo by Rendering Courtesy Pugh + Scarpa Architects Inc.)

SM PIER — The Santa Monica Pier could be getting a new flourish with the possible addition of an onion-shaped, aluminum dome to the top of the 96-year-old building that houses the popular carousel.

Proponents of the plan say the dome will add a dose of whimsy to the pier while restoring a long-lost feature to the carousel structure, a landmark that is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

No one knows exactly when — or how — the original dome disappeared, but old photographs indicate the carousel building has gone dome-less since about the 1930s. The latest plans call for a dome about 15 feet high and 10-and-a-half feet in diameter.

“We’re very excited and very proud of the fact that this project is moving forward,” said Miriam Mack, City Hall’s economic development manager.

Adding the ornament to Santa Monica’s coastal skyline has been a favorite project for many involved with the pier for at least a decade, but funding the project has repeatedly been delayed. The Pier Restoration Corp. had hoped to complete the dome before the pier’s centennial celebration last September.

City Hall officials don’t know how much the dome will ultimately cost and aren’t willing to hazard a guess. While it’s still possible money for the project could become an issue, the Landmarks Commission is set to approve designs for the dome on Monday, and the City Council has already allocated $50,000 in the capital improvement budget for the project.

Mack said once the commission signs off on the plan, City Hall will solicit bids for constructing the dome with the goal of placing it atop the carousel building by this fall.

The contract to build the dome could require approval by the City Council, which typically votes on contracts of more than $100,000.

Mack said the cost of the dome will be worth it, despite City Hall’s budget deficit.

“This carousel has been here for almost a century and as stewards of this national register historic landmark, it’s our responsibility to ensure that it’s here for the next century,” she said.

Others at City Hall are equally enthusiastic about the project.

“I think it really brings the building back to its original form and gives it more integrity,” said Landmarks Commissioner Barbara Kaplan, who said she would recuse herself from any vote on the dome because her firm has done consulting work on the carousel building.

Scott Albright, a senior planner and liaison to the Landmarks Commission, said the proposal is a worthwhile addition that’s in line with City Hall’s vision for the pier.

“It adds a unique visual to the pier and to the building itself and it kind of recaptures some of that sense of fantasy and whimsy,” he said.

Gwynne Pugh, a planning commissioner and the architect contracted to design the Kremlin-esque dome, said the project fits in with City Hall’s goal of responsibly maintaining distinct buildings.

He said his firm’s design is “as historically correct in form and shape as we could reasonably make it” based on photographs of the original.


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