DOWNTOWN — After nearly two years of study, the Bayside District Corporation will take its final steps this month to embrace its new identity — Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.
The new name better represents the goals and mission of the corporation, said Kathleen Rawson, chief executive officer of the district.
Few visitors associated Bayside — a private company that runs the Downtown business district for the city — with the territory it covers, which stretches from Ocean Avenue on the west, Wilshire Boulevard to the north, Seventh Street to the east and the Santa Monica Freeway to the south.
Confusion exists in large part because the character of the district changed drastically since its foundation in the 1980s, when it encompassed a much smaller area along the Third Street Promenade.
The areas further away from the main pedestrian mall received little recognition under the old name, despite assessments paid to fund promotion efforts and service improvements.
The rebrand’s $60,000 price tag bought more than just a new name, however.
“It’s way more than an identity,” Rawson said. “It’s how it’s perceived, and what its assets are.”
The process created a focused plan to realign the area with its core goals — to preserve the feel of Santa Monica by ensuring that locals visit the area and create an authentic feel for visitors to enjoy.
Santa Monica residents visit the downtown area once a week, Rawson said, but the business district wants to see those numbers increase by creating an environment that attracts those that pass by every day.
The district aims to prevent Downtown from becoming stale by creating a tourist-driven image rather than Santa Monica’s true personality — a mix of high art, hard science and flip flops.
“It helps us shift our attention to look at programming that’s for the community and local-focused,” said Debbie Lee, head of marketing for the district.
According to the study, residents want increased services and an influx of moderately-priced retail.
The study also created a blueprint for the direction of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.’s efforts and a number of large projects about to break ground in the area, including the arrival of the Expo light rail line and the Palisades Garden Walk.
Many people think of the Third Street Promenade in terms of other large shopping centers, like the Grove in West Hollywood or the Americana in Glendale, comparisons that the publicly-held street could never live up to, Lee said.
Instead, Downtown Santa Monica will focus its efforts on living up to its name by creating a vibrant, cultural downtown area and leaving the mall identity to Santa Monica Place.
“A lot of things are happening,” Rawson said. “It’s nice to have this experience so we know our existing condition.”
City Hall, a large stakeholder in the district with several parking structures that fall within the assessment boundaries, has thrown its support behind the effort.
“They are taking very seriously the obligation to make sure there is continued vitality, and that the entire geographic area remains vital and competitive and meets the needs of the community,” said Miriam Mack, the economic development manager at City Hall.
The move was a “really brave effort” to re-examine and respond to changing conditions, Mack said.
Although the board voted to change the name of the corporation at its January meeting, the official launch won’t occur until the end of February, when the board is expected to give the green light on a new logo, Lee said.
At that point, the physical rebranding will begin, including new stationary, business cards, signage and more.
As it stands, the approval can’t come fast enough, Rawson said.
“I haven’t ordered new business cards because I don’t want to waste the money,” she said. “I’ve had to dig through purses and boxes to find enough to make it.”