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Mall Remodel Clears Final Hurdle

By Lookout Staff

December 20 -- Santa Monica Place will be shut down on January 31 after plans to remodel the 30-year-old indoor mall cleared the final hurdles last week, winning the approval of the both the California Coastal Commission and the City's Architectural Review Board.

The approvals come three months after the City Council gave the go-ahead for Macerich, which owns the Downtown mall, to transform the enclosed traditional shopping venue into a modern, open-air retail and dining destination that directly links to the popular Third Street Promenade.

"Next door to the Third Street Promenade and two blocks from the ocean, Santa Monica Place is the best new retail location coming on line in Southern California," said Randy Brant, Macerich’s executive vice president in charge of real estate.

"With top retailers, extraordinary design and detail, plus a signature rooftop dining deck with incredible views, the new Santa Monica Place will rival the region's most successful shopping destinations, " Brant said.

Third Street Entrance (Images courtesy of The Jerde Partnership)

The final approvals come three years after Macerich scrapped an ambitious plan to replace its struggling indoor mall with an outdoor shopping venue topped with three 21-story condo towers, an apartment building and an office complex.

After exploring other alternatives, the mall’s owners decided on a much more modest mall remodel that calls for removing large portions of the roof and connecting the mall to the Promenade.

The plan also calls for demolishing a portion of Parking Structure 7; creating a stronger pedestrian orientation at Second Street, Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, and creating an open-air dining area on the third floor.

Under the proposal, Macy’s department store, as well as the two public parking structures totaling nearly 2,000 spaces, will stay open during construction.

City officials unanimously and enthusiastically embraced the proposal, which they agreed would integrate the monolithic 550,000-square-foot structure into the existing urban fabric and increase available open space and pedestrian walkways.

Dining Deck

Scheduled to open in fall 2009, the remodeled mall will retain the two anchor department store buildings -- one of which has yet to be leased -- and maintain the existing building height of 56 feet, while reducing leasable square footage by 10,234 square feet, according to the proposal.

“Macerich's new concept for Santa Monica Place will bring a fresh and relevant retail experience to this famed location,” mall officials said in a statement released Thursday.

Macerich expects the remodeled mall to draw shoppers from the upscale Westside and “serve an enviable set of socially-conscious, smart and worldly consumers,” according to the statement.

Palm Plaza

Average per capita incomes are extremely high in the primary trade area targeted by the mall, reaching $49,356, according to a report by Jeff Green Partners/Retail Focus.

The same report cites average household incomes that top $100,000 across the total trade area and $195,000 in Santa Monica’s upscale North of Montana neighborhood, as well as 12 percent growth Downtown over the next five years.

"The sophisticated market in Santa Monica is ready to embrace a new high-quality mix of retail offerings -- and we've heard from many of the world's top retail names that this is exactly where they want to be," said Bob Williams, Macerich’s senior vice president in charge of leasing.

As part of the remodel, Macerich has agreed to improve the streetscape on Colorado Avenue and the sidewalk paving on Second and Fourth streets and upgrade the elevators and staircases in the two City-owned parking structures attached to the mall.

The design capped a comprehensive public input and outreach campaign that won over the support of the community, though some worry the new, improved mall could bring more traffic to the area.

As proposed, the project does not alter traffic and circulation in the downtown area, because a reduction in square footage factors in as not intensifying travel to and from the mall, according to City staff’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) findings.

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