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Tour Showcases Mall Metamorphosis

By Lookout Staff

August 7 – The wide-open spaces and sweeping views that will characterize the new Santa Monica Place were in full display Wednesday morning during a construction tour of the 30-year-old indoor mall being transformed into an outdoor shopping venue.

The ”sneak peak behind the scenes” came less than four months after mall officials tore down the sign at the Broadway entrance and began ripping the roof off the three-story mall that for more than a decade has been overshadowed by the wild success of the adjoining Third Street Promenade.

Tour of construction site (Photos by Lookout staff)

During the tour, Macerich officials took the hard-hatted visitors through the old steel skeleton that is all that remains of the hulking two-block structure City officials once compared to a “dinosaur.”

“It would have been easier to tear it down and just start over,” said Bob Aptaker, vice president of development for Macerich.

The company, Aptaker said, wanted to be environmentally responsible and salvaged as much of the structure as possible – adding 1,900 tons of new steel, 75,000 yards of concrete that will be erected and laid by a workforce that will reach 400.

Ninety-five percent of the scraped materials will be recycled, Aptaker said.

Bob Aptaker surrounded by some of the 1,900 tons of new steel.

City and business officials on the guided tour were impressed by the transformation of the struggling indoor mall Frank Gehry designed three decades ago into a new upscale shopping and dining venue that extends the Promenade.

Slated to open in the fall of 2009, the new mall will feature an open-air courtyard, upscale shops and a food court on the top floor with sweeping ocean views.

“It becomes a mini city, a destination in itself,” said Laurel Rosen, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. “The dark, enclosed, claustrophobic mall was incongruous with the feel of the city.”

The centerpiece of the outdoor mall will be a round open-air plaza with wide passageways that connect the mall to the Promenade to the north and the Civic Center to the south. The design includes view corridors to 2nd and 4th streets.

View of Promenade from center court site

Rendering of center court (Image courtesy of Macerich)

“You can see 360 degrees,” Aptaker said. “We want the center court to feel like an open area where we can have performances, a gathering place for the community.”

A key feature of the new mall will be an open-air food court perched on a third-floor sundeck, where tables under the shade of umbrellas will provide ocean views between the stores.

The remodeled mall will retain the two anchor department store buildings – Macy’s and Nordstrom’s, which signed a lease last month and will open at the old Robinson’s May space in the fall of 2010.

View corridor of 2nd street

During the remodel, only Macy’s will stay open, along with the mall’s two public parking structures, which will get a makeover that includes adding stores on the ground floor facing Broadway and parking attendants, under a plan approved by the City Council in March.

City officials said they are looking forward to the opening of the Santa Monica Place.

“I think that it’s a great development,” said City Manager Lamont Ewell. “I think it’s going to be great for the city of Santa Monica, and I’m waiting for the opening so we can regenerate sales tax.”


“It would have been easier to tear it down and just start over.” Bob Aptaker


“It becomes a mini city, a destination in itself.” Laurel Rosen


"I’m waiting for the opening so we can regenerate sales tax.” Lamont Ewell


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