The City of Santa is moving forward with the development of a new master plan for the Third Street Promenade following a presentation given yesterday to its City Council.

“Our predecessors were bold in 1989 and it’s time to be bold again as we reimagine the total experience of the Third Street Promenade,” said Mayor Gleam Davis in a statement. “It’s time to reinvest in a community asset that has enriched lives and significantly contributed to Santa Monica’s prosperity."

The Promenade, long closed to automobile traffic, spans three blocks between Broadway and Wilshire Boulevard.  Though it has served as one of the City's primary tourist attractions for more than three decades, increased competition from other outdoor malls in Southern California has led Santa Monica stakeholders to embark on an endeavor known as Promenade 3.0.

“When the Third Street Promenade debuted thirty years ago, it revolutionized the way we look at public space in Southern California,” said City Manager Rick Cole. “It’s the heart of our historic Downtown, the hub of commerce, dining and entertainment and we are committed to ensuring it continues to be a place beloved by residents and visitors alike.  The world is changing, but great public spaces have timeless qualities and we envision the evolution of the Promenade to emphasize the opportunity for people to enjoy a memorable, welcoming and dynamic experience no matter how often they come.”

The project team - comprised of design firms Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Gehl and engineering firm KPFF - has worked throughout 2019 to observe how visitors use the Third Street Promenade and solicit feedback from stakeholders and property owners along the corridor.  Using that information, three design concepts - called Improve Adapt, and Transform - were generated for the presentation to the City Council.

Improve, the most modest of the alternatives, would leave the existing built environment of the Promenade intact while making tactical improvements, including raising the roadway at select locations, demolishing some retail pavilions, and retaining existing street trees.

Adapt, the second option, presents a more intensive suite of upgrades, including raising all roadways to eliminate curbs on the Promenade.

The third alternative, called Transform, is the most ambitious in scope.  In this scenario, all existing pavement and materials would be removed and replaced.  Plans also call for the addition of speed tables at intersections, an overhaul of underground utilities and infrastructure, the removal of retail pavilions, and the replacement of aging Jacaranda trees with new shade trees.

Though the City Council did not vote on a preferred design concept or financing strategy for the Third Street Promenade master plan, Council members expressed support for the more ambitious alternative - Transform.  Additionally, the City Council pushed for greater flexibility in uses to allow for a more diverse array of businesses on the Promenade - including options such as arts venues and breweries.  The Council also encouraged the project team to activate alley ways and pedestrian spaces, expand opportunities for lower-cost kiosk businesses, and incorporate a market square which integrates the Downtown Farmers Market.

Less certain is the potential for digital advertising along the Promenade.  Though the Council expressed opposition to the presence of large video screens on the promenade, some advertising could be incorporated into digital wayfinding signage.

The future of the Promenade's Dinosaur sculptures, which have been in place since 1989, also remains up in the air.  The current designs for the Promenade do not feature the Dinosaurs in their current location, creating the possibility that they may be relocated to a new site.

City staff currently anticipates that construction of the Promenade's renovation could begin as early as Winter 2023 and conclude by Fall 2024.  Financing for project could be provided through a special tax district, subject to the approval of property owners.

An open house meeting to discuss the master plan is scheduled for Saturday, December 7 at the Santa Monica Police Department substation on the 1400 block of the Promenade.

An update to the Council is tentatively expected to occur in the first half of 2020.