Flash Mob dancers fill the Third Street Promenade during the press conference announcing the renaming of the Bayside Corporation to the new name Santa Monica Downtown Inc. on Wednesday morning. (photo by Brandon Wise)

THIRD STREET PROMENADE — Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., the new incarnation of Bayside District Corp., was in the middle of a speech Wednesday morning about the new name and logo for the popular shopping destination, and the agency that helps City Hall promote it, when something strange happened.

As onlookers listened to Rawson’s monologue, a lone guitarist, Chelsea Williams, split from the western edge of the Third Street Promenade and began shucking and jiving to “I’m Walking on Sunshine,” originally done by Katrina and the Waves.

Rawson, looking flustered, informed Williams that she was in the middle of a press conference.

That’s when a crowd of people dressed as Downtown Santa Monica Inc. Ambassadors, hired to help tourists and locals who need to find specific services or amenities in the Downtown district, flooded the area in front of the stage and whipped off their uniform shirts to reveal canary-yellow Downtown Santa Monica Inc. tees.

The group, later revealed to be performance artists Flash Mob America, danced in unison to a remake of Petula Clark’s classic “Downtown.”

The performance was part of a celebration of the end of nearly two years of study, reflection and $60,000 of investment to bring what was formerly known as the Bayside District Corp. better in line with the constituency it serves and its overall mission to create a vibrant Downtown for residents and visitors.

The Bayside name didn’t garner much recognition from outsiders, and only encompassed a narrow swathe of the district, which actually extends to Ocean Avenue on the west, Wilshire Boulevard to the north, Seventh Street to the east and the Santa Monica Freeway to the south.

It was a holdover from an old era when the business district was confined to a much smaller area along the promenade.

Businesses that pay assessments for promotion efforts and service improvements that did not lie on the main drag got little for their dollar.

That’s all changed now that the name has become Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., Rawson said.

“The geographic location simply called out for it,” Rawson said.

The new name comes with a logo; an eclipse with the words “Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.” emblazoned upon it. It represents the district’s innovative new identity, Rawson said.

“It represents that Downtown Santa Monica is on the edge,” she told the crowd. “It’s edgy, and it’s literally on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.”

A new slogan was also unveiled, “Everyone’s Downtown,” which Rawson said was a double entendre. The slogan lets people know that Downtown is the place to be and that it is open to everyone.

The revise is more than just a new name, logo and slogan, it’s an overhaul of events and activities held on the promenade and throughout the district to change the perception of it as simply a mall or tourist trap.

Its new programming includes movies, like “The Princess Bride” and “The Goonies,” which will be projected for free onto a screen at dusk on some weekdays.

The district will also hold dating events for couples under the brand DatingDowntown, a series of special events held every Saturday in July and August.

By attracting locals, the district hopes to create an authentic Santa Monica experience that will feel natural and be more interesting to tourists that come to visit, officials have said in previous interviews.

Todd Flora, a member of the Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. board and Rent Control Board, said that the renewed local focus would enhance rather than supplant the push to attract outsiders to the city.

“This can be a Downtown accessible to them as well,” Flora said. “We will continue to be aggressive to attract international and domestic tourists.”

The board seems to be doing a good job of convincing at least some locals that they’re on the right track.

Adolfo Bernal, a Santa Monica resident, was on the promenade when he happened upon the flash mob dance scene.

“This is a great idea,” he said. “This is going to be a better era for this area.”

ashley@www.smdp.com

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