Third Street Promenade (File photo)

The Planning Commission spends most of its time inside the confines of City Hall but this week, the group will take a more hands (or perhaps feet) on approach with a walking tour of the Promenade.

The future of the City’s economy and specifically the downtown retail environment have occupied significant recourses recently including a series of workshops organized by Downtown Santa Monica Inc. organized several workshops over the past few weeks to consider the future of the Promenade and one included a small tour of the 1200 block.

Mackenzie Carter, Director of Marketing & Communication for DTSM said the streets economics remain strong but there are some physical infrastructure needs that are best experienced from an in-person visit.

“The Third Street Promenade provides an exciting experience with countless sights and sounds to take in while you walk down the street. This lively atmosphere can be diverting and you might not notice the aging infrastructure or mismatched pavement. Being in the space and focusing on all the physical elements on the street provides a different perspective of the place. We are thrilled that the Planning Commission is taking the time to tour the Promenade and hope it provides the commissioners with a better understanding of the street’s current needs.”
Commissioner Richard McKinnon said the efforts are needed to formulate a swift response to what could become a serious problem.

“Retail is in a state of collapse, the model that has served us over the last 30-40 years is going away,” he said. “The smartphone has brought about the demise of retail and that was predictable but this is just the moment that it’s gone over the cliff.”

He said walking the street at will give staff and the commission a fresh perspective as the city approaches the first anniversary of the area’s zoning document, the Downtown Community Plan. For McKinnon, the problems extend beyond physical repairs and mirror the larger problems facing retail hubs nationwide.

“You can get scale of problem,” he said. “From Arizona up it’s almost a wasteland at times where it used to be lively. It’s just desolate in a lot of cases and that’s going to happen right down the Promenade.”

McKinnon said developing plans for the Promenade needs to be a high priority if the area is to evolve quickly enough to save itself.

“We need rapidly to move on this and everyone needs to be engaged,” he said.

Staff said the commission will be given some questions to serve as prompts and maps highlighting the Promenade’s infrastructure but the tour doesn’t have a specific goal.

The Commission will walk the Promenade at 6 p.m. Following the walk, the Commission will reconvene inside City Hall (1685 Main St.) for their regular business no earlier than 7:30 p.m.