After adding colorful seating, lawn games, play structures and art installations to the Third Street Promenade over the past year, the team behind Promenade 3.0 is moving forward with the next phase of the project: a comprehensive redesign of the street that is intended to give consumers who increasingly shop online a reason to visit the Promenade.
The Santa Monica City Council will give feedback Tuesday on concept plans for Promenade 3.0, a project the city of Santa Monica and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., the district’s business improvement district, have undertaken to reimagine the Promenade for the 21st century. Tuesday will be the first time that the Promenade 3.0 team show the public what that could look like.
The proposed plans call for new seating areas, event plazas, concession stands, stages and a dedicated zone for the Santa Monica Farmers Market, as well as aesthetic elements such as water features, landscaping and art installations.
“We want it to function more than it has in the past as a space for community events,” said Alan Loomis, an urban designer for the city who has been leading Promenade 3.0.
That will require removing the Promenade’s curbs and levelling the street, Loomis said. Depending on how much funding the city council and property owners decide to commit to the project, some or all of the sidewalk and paving could be replaced.
“It’s configured kind of like a conventional street, and that limits the scale and the size and the types of events we can stage on the Promenade,” he said. “Removing the curbs will give us far more flexibility.”
Rios Clementi Hale Studios, the design firm the city hired to develop Promenade 3.0, has also proposed raising the streets that break up the Promenade — Broadway, Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue — to the level of the sidewalk to encourage motorists to slow down and overhauling the electrical infrastructure underneath the street.
“The light on the trees today are powered by extension cords that run into the nearest light pole, and for every event, we have to run extension cords everywhere,” he said. “We would want at least one event space to be plug-in ready, with all the audiovisual and lighting infrastructure already there.”
Loomis said the project is projected to cost $45 to $60 million. Construction would not be able to begin until 2023 or 2024 and would take one to two years.
The city is still exploring funding models, but Loomis said money for the project will likely come from both property owners and the city. A similar funding model was used to construct the Promenade in the 1980s, he said.
“Property owners would need to vote on some sort of assessment district to pay for this, and if they vote no, there’s no project, so we need to make sure that partnership between downtown property owners and the city is workable if this is to move forward,” Loomis said.
Even if the costs were split 50/50, the city would still need to contribute $20 to $30 million. That could be tricky, given that the city is trying to eliminate millions of dollars in spending over the next 10 years to compensate for ballooning pension costs and eroding revenues from traditional sources like brick-and-mortar retail sales tax.
On the Promenade, total taxable sales rose 4.2% last year after falling 8.2% between 2015 and 2017 as many stores closed due to competition from online retailers. But the Promenade is still peppered with vacant storefronts, and visitors who were surveyed last December identified other issues with the shopping district, such as homelessness and an overly corporate identity.
Loomis said he believes the city and property owners will see the project as an investment that will help the Promenade compete with other shopping destinations in the Los Angeles area.
“Those three blocks do generate 15% of the city’s sales tax revenue, so the Promenade is a important component of the city’s economic sustainability strategy,” he said.
The city council will meet Tuesday, Nov. 5 at City Hall, 1685 Main St.