By Jorge Casuso
June 22 -- The Planning Commission Wednesday night
enthusiastically embraced the proposed remodel of Santa Monica
Place, giving the design that tears the roof and doors off
the indoor mall and connects it to the Third Street Promenade
unusually exuberant praise.
The commission will not officially weigh in on the project,
which only requires administrative approval, but Macerich
Company officials chose to seek input on their modest remodel,
which features an open-air center court and a third-floor
food court overlooking the Pacific. (staff
|Third Street Entrance
(Images courtesy of The Jerde Partnership)
“I like the overall configuration,” said Planning
Commissioner Darrell Clarke. “I like how it opens up.
I like the curves. I think it’s gorgeous.
“I look forward to seeing it there,” he added.
“I think you’ve done something special.”
Commissioner Hank Koning, an architect, echoed Clarke’s
enthusiasm. “I think it’s quite fabulous, actually,”
Commissioner Jay Johnson called it “a world-class project.
“I applaud the design,” Johnson said. “I
think it’s very exciting. It’s a great enhancement.”
The remodel comes two-and-a-half years after the City Council
rejected plans for a major redevelopment of the 27-year-old-mall
designed by world-renowned Santa Monica architect Frank Gehry
that included three 21-story condo towers.
“It’s really important that we have a project
the community is embracing,” said Robyn Young, senior
manager of development relations for Macerich, noting the
company has been in Santa Monica for 29 years.
“This is really a unique design, and it’s created
just for Santa Monica,” Young said. “We met with
14 different community groups, and in almost all of these
meetings, we received universally positive feedback.”
The proposed remodel will address what’s wrong with
the struggling indoor mall, Macerich officials said.
“It’s a suburban type shopping center in an urban
environment,” said Robert Aptaker, Macerich’s
vice president of development. “It’s inward-facing
and it’s not pedestrian friendly. . . We want to get
away from the feel of a shopping mall.”
While the overall design won strong support Wednesday night,
two commissioners were concerned that an open-air food court
on the third-floor could drive away customers seeking shelter
from the often chilly ocean breezes.
“I continue to have concerns about where the food facilities
will be,” said Commissioner Julie Lopez Dad. “I’m
concerned about the wind, the breezes up there.”
“Taking off the roof could be a disincentive,”
Johnson said. “The Whittier Center was closed, they
opened it, business went way down. They closed it, and it
went back up.”
Macerich officials -- who said they have hired a “wind
consultant” and plan to put up 6-foot screens -- said
the community had overwhelmingly supported tearing off the
“The feedback we’ve been getting has been overwhelming
about creating an open-air environment,” said Aptaker.
“The time is right to open up this Downtown property.”