If you visit the Third Street Promenade later this month, someone may be watching you.
On Dec. 13 and 15, volunteers will be carefully monitoring shoppers as they move around the Promenade as part of a survey that will guide the Third Street revitalization project dubbed “Promenade 3.0.” Surveyors will record how many and what types of people they observe in different areas and describe what they do. Some volunteers, mainly Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. ambassadors, will also stop visitors to ask them questions.
Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. is recruiting more than 30 people to assist with the survey through an online form. Gehl, an urban research and design firm, will train the volunteers to administer its Public Space Public Life Survey. The Copenhagen-based company has conducted the survey in public spaces around the world, including Times Square in New York and Market Street in San Francisco.
DTSM and the City of Santa Monica will use the results of the survey to inform Promenade 3.0, a plan to attract more visitors and encourage them to linger. The Promenade’s total taxable sales fell by 2.9 percent last year amid a nationwide “retail apocalypse” caused by the growth of online shopping.
Promenade 3.0 will try to provide shoppers with an experience they can’t get online. Understanding how people already use the space will help DTSM create that experience, said CEO Kathleen Rawson.
“The survey will inform future plans by observing what people seem to be drawn to and what they’re avoiding,” she said. “The Promenade was completed in 1989 and the design has held up, but it’s time to look for what may be sacred about the space and what needs to change.”
Rawson said even simple modifications can dramatically change how people use the Promenade. The district installed a seating and games area at the north end of the district in September after observing that visitors no longer spent time there after Barnes & Noble closed.
“People used to just walk through that area, but now there are reasons for them to linger,” she said.
City Council also banned large chain restaurants from the Promenade earlier this month in an attempt to make the district more distinctive.
Alan Loomis, the City’s urban designer, said Denver was able to breathe new life into its downtown 16th Street Mall after conducting a Gehl survey. Few pedestrians spent time shopping or hanging out on the mile-long promenade, which is as integral to Denver as Third Street is to Santa Monica, Loomis said.
The city used the survey results to develop Meet in the Street Sundays, adding more seating on the street and hosting live music. The share of pedestrians using the space jumped, as did sales.
If the survey finds that Third Street visitors are moving quickly through the district rather than sticking around, DTSM and the City will, like Denver, look for ways to get them to stay put, Loomis said.
The survey will also monitor the demographics of visitors to the Promenade to understand how popular or unpopular it is among certain groups.
“If we find few families with small children are using the Promenade, for example, that would suggest we need to create more activities for small children,” Loomis said.
The findings of the survey will be presented in mid-February to the Planning Commission, who may send it to City Council for review. The City and DTSM are contributing $200,000 and $100,000, respectively, to cover the cost of the survey.
Gehl will provide volunteers with an optional training on Dec. 12 from 5 to 6 p.m. Surveyors will also receive training before starting their four-hour shifts between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Dec. 13 and 15.