Council Discusses Promenade Future Nearly 40% of Storefronts are Vacant in Open-Air Mall
February 18, 2021
By Jack Simon
The Third Street Promenade, the three-block, open-air retail and entertainment district, may be getting a facelift this year.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the Santa Monica City Council discussed revitalization plans for the Promenade which has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the state’s Stay at Home orders.
City officials said the Promenade is a vital economic engine for Santa Monica and major contributor to community-serving programs, generating 15% of sales tax revenues citywide. But nearly 40% of the Promenade’s storefronts are currently vacant, with over half of these vacancies predating the pandemic, according to a staff report.
“The Promenade is facing a combination of challenges unparalleled in its history, and is currently not well-positioned to weather evolving trends in retail and dining that have only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the report.
During its meeting, which lasted more than 6 hours, the Council reviewed the Third Street Promenade Stabilization and Economic Vitality Plan, a joint effort between the City of Santa Monica and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM), the nonprofit organization that manages the pedestrian mall.
“The Third Street Promenade is a public street, meant for all to enjoy and it will be a foundation of our economic recovery,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “In these three blocks, we can creatively adapt both the retail and public spaces for new uses, tenants, and experiences that are a magnet for our local residents and a draw for the region as well. We seek diverse perspectives from across the community to engage in this process and help create a plan for an iconic, welcoming pedestrian district of the future.”
City officials said that the Promenade’s future success and resilience will depend on several key components, which the council members explored in their discussion:
· Expanding the offerings to include other cultural, entertainment, office, and residential uses for economic feasibility given the changed retail environment;
· Evolving the Promenade toward an authentic, commercial district attractive to Santa Monica’s neighborhoods and locals, which will restore its appeal as a regional draw as well;
· Existing buildings will require reinvestment and reconfiguration to suit the demands of modern retailers, particularly emerging, independent and/or local brands that will differentiate the Promenade from competitor destinations; and
· Reimagining the public space to be a true plaza with ample seating with focus on music, dance, and visual arts.
The Promenade Vitality Plan follows the study and planning effort, known as Promenade 3.0, which was adopted in November 2019. City officials said the new plan will address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the retail and dining landscape. A speedy recovery for the Promenade will directly impact the timeline for restoration and expansion of community services, they added.
DTSM announced that it has already enlisted experts in public space environments and retail strategy as well as specialists in architecture/urban design, marketing and hospitality to advance the next phase of the project.
By early summer, DTSM and city staff will return to City Council to present the plan, obtain community feedback, and receive direction on policy development and implementation.
Those interested in following the project’s progression and providing feedback should visit http://www.DowntownSM.com/Promenade.
In another development Tuesday night, the City Council voted to retain Lamont Ewell of Ralph Andersen and Associates to provide executive search services for the position of City Manager.
Ewell was formerly City Manager of Santa Monica from 2006 to 2009. Current interim City Manager Lane Dilg announced last December she was leaving her post this spring as her family was relocating for public service outside of Santa Monica.