Main Street will have a wider pedestrian area for retail and dining options in the coming weeks. Photo by Matthew Hall.

Work is underway to transform Main Street into a European-inspired pedestrian style environment and officials hope the newly configured street will help local businesses adapt to the ongoing challenges of retail during a health crisis.

The street is being repainted to remove the center lane and street parking. Traffic lanes will be relocated to the center of the street and concrete barriers will border the vehicle lanes. The newly created space adjacent to the sidewalks will be opened up for retail and dining uses.

“As we seek to support our local businesses and provide safe ways to enjoy our City, reimagining our public rights of way becomes essential,” said Interim City Manager Lane Dilg. “We will continue to look for opportunities to expand sustainable transit and safe outdoor dining in Santa Monica. As we do so, we need everyone who comes out to enjoy our vibrant local restaurants and public spaces to wear a face covering and practice safe physical distancing for the public health and safety of all.”

The idea to reorganize the street came from local businesses. Retail stores and restaurants are allowed to open under current health orders but due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, capacity inside stores is limited. Advocates had proposed several kinds of reconfiguration but said they are happy with the current plans.

“This plan, which is the result of a tireless, rapid collaboration between MSBIA (we, the business association), O.P.A. (the residents), and City Staff (special shout-out to the mobility team!), is the best approach for now,” said Hunter Hall, Executive Director Main Street Business Improvement Association. “It preserves a north and south traffic lane, as well as both bike lanes, all access points and parking lots, while simultaneously giving a significant additional portion of space to restaurants and retailers to use within our forthcoming guidelines.”

He said a full closure of the street was supported by many but would have taken too long to implement.

“We believe this plan will be overwhelmingly positive for our businesses,” he said. “These changes are part of a broad set of sweeping changes and adjustments that are designed to make doing business easier, faster, and more lucrative. We are confident that these changes will be a huge boost to Main St. in general, particularly for our restaurants.”

The changes will run along Main Street from Hollister to Pier. The project is expected to remain in place for about a year. Construction will be ongoing on the street for the next week as lanes are repainted and barriers are installed.

According to City staff, County health protocols will be in place throughout the retail zone including use of face coverings, physical distancing and hand washing. Businesses need to apply for an encroachment agreement that will be posted on the City’s Economic Recovery website soon to use the newly available area. The approvals are issued the same day for businesses that have all necessary documentation.

Marc Morgenstern, President of the Ocean Park Association said, “OPA and the Ocean Park community are excited to see Main Street’s transformation underway. In partnership with the City and the Main Street merchants, we fully support the pilot project to help save jobs, preserve businesses, and create a vibrant and safe environment for residents and visitors to enjoy.”

Anthony Schmitt, of the Chairperson MSBIA said he is looking forward to walking the street with a more open environment.

“Main Street, has a new look and feel,” he said. “Bikes are a positive part of what Main street is about. Having a pedestrian feel to shopping, dinning, and even seeing the art on the interior of the K-rail.”