The former movie theater atop the Santa Monica Place Mall will transition to a new art gallery space following Council’s recent decision to dissolve the Development Agreement (DA) that, in essence, tied the owner and operator of the Santa Monica Place shopping mall to developing the former ArcLight cinema complex solely as a movie theater, thus now allowing it to be repurposed for a different use.

This action is among the last of the legal formalities to be finalized before the property at 315 Colorado Avenue is transformed into the Arte Museum, self-described as a “50,000 square foot immersive, digital art destination.” The development is being managed by Macerich, the Santa Monica-based real estate investment trust that is the third-largest owner of shopping centers in the country. (ArcLight itself was operated by the Decurion Corporation until 2021 and now no one company owns the whole chain as individual sites across the country have been bought by different organizations.)

The Arte Museum is Korea’s largest immersive media art exhibition organized by renowned digital design company d’strict. They created the colossal computer-generated “Wave” displayed at the Coex Convention & Exhibition Center in Seoul, South Korea, that you might have seen on social media a few month’s back.

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Set to open in early 2024, the Arte Museum is expected to draw one million visitors annually to Santa Monica Place.

The mall’s ArcLight was given the green light by Council in April 2014, which was for the conversion of a then vacant retail space on the third floor. It subsequently proved very popular with locals and tourists alike. However, it ceased operations in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and was never reopened. The DA was only required because at that time, some additional height was needed to accommodate the theater. Today’s Downtown Community Plan allows for the building height without a DA.

The item was first raised on the Council’s agenda for the May 9, 2023 meeting where Roxanne Tanemori, Acting City Planning Division Manager of the City of Santa Monica Department of Planning and Community Development, provided a succinct staff report.

“The item before you tonight is a request to cancel the Santa Monica place development agreement,” Tanemori said, recommending that council adopt a finding of no possibility of significant environmental effect pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Tanemori also recommended that Council authorize the City Manager to take all necessary implementing actions to effectuate the cancellation.

“This action to council really allows Macerich the ability to reuse and release the space in support of economic activity both for the mall and broader downtown region,” Tanemori said.

The decision was finalized without the need for any discussion or debate last week as the motion was made by Councilmember Caroline Torosis and seconded by Councilmember Phil Brock. All six present councilmembers voted yes, with Mayor Pro Tempre Lana Negrete absent.

Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.