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Opening Up to Luxe: Santa Monica Mall to Get a Makeover

California's Santa Monica Place is set to shed its dated, mainstream mall format and be transformed into an open-air luxury destination.

A rendering of the revamped Santa Monica Place

A rendering of the revamped Santa Monica Place.

Photo By WWD Staff

California's Santa Monica Place is set to shed its dated, mainstream mall format and be transformed into an open-air luxury destination.

At the heart of the 30-year-old enclosed center's redevelopment is a plan to be integrated into the fabric of the coastal community, with appropriate architecture and amenities that take advantage of Pacific Ocean views.

The overhaul calls for dismantling the roof, and a near total remerchandising. High-end retail brands and designer labels are being sought, and the former 131,000-square-foot Robinsons-May will be replaced with an upscale fashion department store, or possibly two large specialty stores. Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus have been contacted. Macy's, the other mall anchor, is staying put.

Another element of the redesign will be outdoor dining with five or six restaurants on a deck overlooking the Pacific above the three levels of retail, a food hall, a more spacious center court and wider common areas.

Santa Monica Place will shut Jan. 31, with the exception of Macy's, to prepare for construction in the spring. The reopening is expected in fall 2009. Macerich would not disclose how much it intends to spend on the redevelopment.

Last month, Macerich, the real estate investment trust that owns Santa Monica Place, completed the entitlement process for the redevelopment. It was a particularly sweet victory, considering Macerich is based in Santa Monica and persevered through three years of negotiations and design issues with local officials and the community. Concessions were made on reducing the scale, including dropping plans for residential towers.

The California Coastal Commission and the City of Santa Monica's Architectural Review Board gave the green light in December. Last fall, the project was approved by the Santa Monica City Council. Macerich has been aggressively remodeling and expanding prime properties, including the recently redone Queens Center in New York and Tysons Corner in Virginia, which is under way. With Santa Monica Place, the developer has been eager to sustain the strategy.

"Santa Monica was a very challenging, three-year process,'' said Randy Brant, Macerich's executive vice president of real estate and a 15-year resident of Santa Monica. "For a remodel in a city this size, it [usually] takes less than a year to get the approvals. But we went out to the community and gave them what they wanted."
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