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Downtown Santa Monica “Dream Site” Project Goes Before City Council, Again

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 4, 2013 -- Staff is once again recommending that the City Council accept a proposal by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas and backed by local developer John Warfel to build out one of the last remaining undeveloped lots in Downtown Santa Monica.

The recommendation comes three months after the Council voted 5-to-1 to give Related Company, one of the nation's largest developers and one of three companies vying to develop the site, another chance to compete against the design by Koolhaas and local architect Johannes Van Tilburg. (“City Council Not Satisfied with Proposal for Downtown ‘Dream Site,’” August 29)

The chosen project would be built on the corner of Arizona Avenue and Fourth Street and is expected to revitalize two-and-a-half acres of City-owned land just west of the Third Street Promenade. (“Santa Monica Moves Ahead with Plans for Dream Site Eyed by the State,” May 30)

“Upon evaluating the teams’ responses to follow-up questions, the selection panel determined that the team led by (Warfel's company) Metropolitan Pacific Capital (MPC)… continued to best address the RFP (request for proposal) evaluation criteria, development objectives, and Council’s identified priorities,” said City staff.

At the August meeting, the Council rejected staff’s recommendation to select MPC’s proposal for a 12-story, 500,000 square-foot complex with hotel, office, retail and public open space.

Instead, the Council voted 5-to-1 to have Related Company -- the developer behind the 325-unit Civic Center Village project across from City Hall -- and MPC answer more in-depth questions about their projects proposed for the public land between Fourth and Fifth Streets south of Arizona Avenue.

Among other things, City staff preferred the proposal by Koolhaas, who was given a life-time achievement award in 2000 for his work had proposal because it allows for more open space than Related's project, designed by local architect Hank Koning.

“The Metro Pacific team’s tiered building design creates another large public open space on the second level, and additional open spaces on the upper rooftop levels,” staff said.

“The design provides the ability to program different portions of the space in different ways, simultaneously, for both public and private use,” they said.

MPC’s design is smaller and less dense than Related’s, which would be 19 stories and include 52 affordable apartments among other uses.

The lack of housing in MPC’s proposal was one thing that concerned Council members who voted against moving forward in August.

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