Preferred Street Promenade

Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade will undergo transformative master plan

Promenade 3.0 will improve upon the pedestrian experience of the Third Street Promenade when it was first completed in 1989. (Courtesy Rios Clementi Hale Studios)

Following a presentation made to the Santa Monica City Council on November 5, significant updates have been approved for the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian-only shopping street that over the last three decades has become one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. “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 Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis in an official statement. “It’s time to reinvest in a community asset that has enriched lives and significantly contributed to Santa Monica’s prosperity.”

Known as “Promenade 3.0,” the master plan’s project team is comprised of local engineering firm KPFF and local architecture firms Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Gehl, which has worked together over the last year to develop three unique design concepts for the street: Improve, Adapt and Transform. ‘Improve’ would update the pedestrian experience by demolishing some of the site’s defunct retail pavilions to make room for pedestrian traffic while raising the roadway in certain sections; ‘Adapt’ calls for raising the entire roadway to curb level; and ‘Transform’ would remove and replace all existing flooring with updated materials, demolish retail pavilions, and add significantly more trees and other shading devices. All three plans include movable furniture, landscape areas and improved pedestrian crosswalks along the path’s two intersections.

Aerial diagram of a street improvement plan

All three proposals included improved pedestrian crossing, landscape areas, water features, and movable furniture. (Courtesy Rios Clementi Hale Studios)

The City Council has expressed significant interest in Transform, the most ambitious redevelopment of the three proposals. In addition, the project team was encouraged by the Council to imagine even more transformative design gestures, which could serve to construct more zones for outdoor activities and increase opportunities for businesses operating lower-cost kiosks along the site. “Not only do we want to create an environment that gets people to come to the Promenade not just once but on repeated occasions … what’s important is that maintaining its authenticity will also make it more appealing to people,” said Mayor Davis.

In its current arrangement, the Promenade covers three blocks of Third Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway, culminating in a three-story open-air mall that recently replaced the Frank Gehry-designed Santa Monica Place Mall. “When the Third Street Promenade debuted thirty years ago,” said City Manager Rick Cole, “it revolutionized the way we look at public space in Southern California.” Only time will tell if Promenade 3.0 will meaningfully bring the original design’s revolutionary qualities into the 21st century. The project will be funded by Promenade property and city owners and is expected to cost between $45 and $60 million. Once ground is broken in 2023 or 2024, construction is anticipated to take one to two years.

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