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Council Tasked with Selecting Development Team for Bergamot Arts Center

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Frank Gruber for Santa Monica City CouncilHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Lookout Staff

September 4, 2014 -- A little more than two weeks after a divided Santa Monica Arts Commission came up with a recommendation for the future of the Bergamot Arts Center, the City Council on Tuesday is expected to make a decision on how to move forward.

City staff and the majority of the Arts Commission have recommended the council hire 26th Street TOD Partners to begin the public process toward redeveloping the aging arts center. It sits on City-owned property across from a future Expo Light Rail station on the east end of Santa Monica.

The 26th Street team’s plan calls for museum, art gallery and office space as well as a hotel and underground parking. Some commissioners and public speakers said at the Aug. 23 Arts Commission meeting that they preferred proposals from one of the two other groups, and others liked none of the options.

“Some expressed concern about the lengthy City entitlement process and how uncertainty over the future of the site may impact business,” a report written by Housing and Economic Development Director Andy Agle states. “Others expressed unease about the amount of proposed commercial development on the site.”

Agle added, “Others anticipated that the Arts Center could provide more community arts and cultural activities to more people if it had additional space created on the site that could support a broader spectrum of arts.” 

There were also various concerns raised about possible negative impacts of various parking options.

The idea of a hotel at the site has some critics. Members of the slow-growth group Residocracy shouted “no more hotels” during a community presentation in May.

The property currently features what Agle described as 27 “small, creative business tenants, including art galleries, designers, a nonprofit theatre company and a café.” 

The tenants sublease from the group Bergamot Station Ltd., which pays rent to the City for $528,000 per year. The City’s lease with Bergamot Station Ltd., which owns an adjacent 1.3-acre property that contains additional art galleries and the Santa Monica Museum of Art, expires at the end of 2017.

If the council accepts the recommendation of staff and the Arts Commission on Tuesday, the City manager would negotiate an agreement with 26th Street.

“The development Team would [then] begin community outreach efforts on the project design and open space programming, and incorporate feedback from the community and from council, boards and commissions gleaned during initial float-up presentations,” Agle wrote. 

A development agreement application for the project would likely be submitted next year and construction would start in 2017 at the earliest, Agle wrote.

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