Finance officials recommended that City Council choose 26Street TOD Partners for a development at the Bergamot Station Art Center. (Rendering courtesy 26Street TOD Partners)
Finance officials recommended that City Council choose 26Street TOD Partners for a development at the Bergamot Station Art Center. (Rendering courtesy 26Street TOD Partners)

BERGAMOT STATION — Dozens of railroad depots turned galleries that make up the largest art complex in Southern California could share space with a swanky hotel and new offices housing tech companies if developers who pitched to City Council earlier this week get their way.

Three developers unveiled their preliminary proposals for making over the 8-acre Bergamot Station Art Center at council’s Tuesday meeting.

The area served as a railroad station from 1875 through the 1950s. After the station closed it was a manufacturing site. Santa Monica officials bought the land in the late 1980s and Bergamot Station opened as an art center in 1994. Over the years it grew into a world-renowned arts haven. It is home to the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

Last year, when council approved the Bergamot Area Plan, they envisioned an upgrade to the space to coincide with the nearby incoming Expo Light Rail station.

Council was given an opportunity to choose a single developer to pursue the site after hearing the three proposals. Council members voted unanimously to delay the vote until the Arts Commission weighs in on the project and the gallery owners are consulted.

City finance officials recommended that council choose 26Street TOD Partners, which proposes 40,000 square feet of creative office, a 93-room six-story hotel, 45,000 square feet of for-profit art galleries, and 30,000 square feet of nonprofit art space. The nonprofit space includes a 20,000 square-foot four-story space for the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

It would include a 442-space subterranean parking garage, the construction of which would require the current tenants to temporarily relocate to a neighboring Michigan Avenue property.

The estimated tax revenue from the project was the lowest of the three proposals at $1.5 million annually.

Bergamot Station Ltd/Worth Real Estate would generate the most tax revenue, $2.2 million, according to estimates, and brought on Wayne Blank — who is widely considered the visionary behind the success of the current complex — as its art curator.

The proposal includes a larger seven-story, 120-room hotel, 44,000 square feet of creative office space, 61,600 square feet of for-profit galleries and a two-story building for the Santa Monica Museum of Art. It would also include a subterranean garage with 356 spaces.

REthink/KOR proposes the most creative office space at 53,500 square feet. It also aims to preserve four or five of the current buildings, the most of the three proposals. It does not plan an underground parking garage.

REthink’s hotel would be six stories tall with 125 rooms. It would preserve 54,000 square feet of for-profit gallery space. Like 26Street TOD, they propose a three-story, 20,000 square-foot space for the museum.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several representatives from the museum spoke in favor of 26Street TOD plans.

Despite the site’s close proximity to the controversial Hines office/housing project — approved by council on private land across the street and chastised by some for its office space — few spoke in opposition to the proposed project’s office and hotel plans.

Several gallery owners, however, asked council to delay the project.

Gallery owner William Turner said that the construction plans are more extensive than they’d originally anticipated.

“We are therefore concerned about what the true impact of this construction will be, how long it will last, and how we will maintain business viability during this construction,” he said.

Members of Unite Here Local 11, a hospitality union, also asked council to delay the vote to give them time to work out labor agreements with all of the developers.

None of the developers had signed promises with the union as of the council meeting, a union spokesperson said, but they did have positive discussions with both 26Street TOD and Bergamot Station Ltd.

The union issue was a big one for Councilmember Tony Vazquez, who named it as one of his reasons for delaying a decision.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown likened the proposals to “undercooked eggs” and asked that the Arts Commission and the gallery owners be brought into the discussion.

When it next comes before the council members, likely later this year, council will consider selecting one developer to negotiate exclusively with.

If an agreement with that developer is ironed out, construction could begin as early as 2016 and be completed in 2018.

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