A team from the Macerich Company, owners of Santa Monica Place (SMP), has presented Santa Monica’s Planning Commission with a new revitalization project for the mall.
Gone from the plan were the three 21-foot towers that had raised eyebrows throughout the City when their original plan was proposed 18 months ago. Macerich representative Robin Young explained to the Commission that they had been discussing and getting feedback on their new proposal from various neighborhood groups, the Pier Restoration Corporation and the Santa Monica Coalition For A Livable City over the summer. They went back out into the community for two reasons: the company recently obtained the site where Robinsons-May once stood and “over the past couple of years we’ve learned a lot about what the community wants to see.”
At the October 4 meeting, Robert Abtaker, another Macerich presenter, stressed the original mixed-use plan has been taken “off the table,” and Macerich now has an “adaptive re-use plan” which is based upon the six parameters developed from the “extensive community outreach last year.” These parameters are a “project of reasonable scale, better connectivity to the City, open air and views, a project that’s environmentally friendly, a retail focus and attention to traffic and parking.”
By adhering to these parameters, Abtaker stated, the new project proposal “will be the same size footprint and height as what it is currently, with the exception in terms of the leaseable area which will be less than what it is today.” Later in the meeting, Randy Brandt, Macerich’s Senior Vice President for Development Leasing, explained that the current square footage of the mall is 560,000 square feet, but the new project will have 40,000 less square feet. He also stressed the type of retail that will become part of the new mall will reflect the demographic needs of Santa Monica, complement the retail mix of the Promenade and make it a “world class” mall.
The entire roof will now be removed from the mall and the food court, which will contain both an indoor and outdoor section and will be moved from the first to the third floor. The reason for moving the food court is to help “relate to the energy of the Third Street Promenade.” Other things that will change include expanding the center court, adding a new architectural look and incorporating “green building practices.”
Brandt also mentioned that “SMP will be closed during construction for approximately 18 months but Macy’s,” which is owned by the Federated Department Stores, “may stay open.” Macerich is trying to work with Macy’s to modify their property to be more compatible with the changes they want to make to the mall.
City legal counsel Alan Seltzer explained that the proposed plan would first be reviewed by the City’s Redevelopment Agency to see if it complies with the Downtown Development Plan and other restrictions. If so, it will then be reviewed by the City’s Architectural Review Board.
Commission Chair Gwynne Pugh asked if the Commission would get a chance to review the project. Seltzer responded that because it’s an adaptive reuse – with no increase in square footage or increase in floor area and is not a substantial remodel – it could be approved administratively, and thus would not come to the Commission. Speaking for himself, Pugh responded, “It would be unfortunate that such a significant element and opportunity, quite frankly, for the City to look at the urban design fabric and context of this project – if it’s not seen and reviewed and vetted by us, I think that would be an opportunity significantly lost by the City.”
Seltzer stressed the Commission’s review of the project would be up to the discretion of the City Council.