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.

Macerich has challenges ahead, primarily securing luxury tenants in a relatively short time frame in an area associated with a more casual attitude and the junior-type merchandise appeal of the popular Third Street Promenade, next door to Santa Monica Place.

"We are negotiating letters of intent and moving very quickly," Brant said. "Luxury stores have been longing for a venue in Santa Monica. They understand that the resident in 'west, west Los Angeles' doesn't like to go to Beverly Hills, though they have been concerned about Third Street, which has set itself up as a junior street."

However, Brant said design plans should alleviate those concerns since the goal is to create an upscale streetscape à la Madison Avenue, where luxury brands project their own personalities rather than conform to the uniformity of a typical mall setting. "We're really trying to urbanize a multilevel retail structure with a contemporary design and provide an opportunity for retailers to express themselves — to build flagship stores. The transformation from a physical standpoint will be dramatic."

With the opening up of common areas and a larger center court for a less constricted feeling, the mall's gross leasable area will drop slightly to 540,000 square feet from 560,000. Vertical retail "bays" will be designed for flexibility, and on the Third Street side there will be a glass building Macerich likens to a "jewel box" with horizontal louvers for a key retailer to embody the "street retail" atmosphere.

Jacaranda trees, which also line Third Street, and other plantings, as well as terra-cotta, glass and stonework, will be incorporated in the design to reflect the architectural palette of the community. Slim columns on the Second Street side of the mall will mimic the pylons of the Santa Monica Pier. The mall is located at Broadway and Third Streets, two blocks from the beach. Omniplan, based in Dallas, is the architect. The Jerde Partnership of Venice, Calif., is the design firm.

The other big selling point is, of course, the area's wealth. Macerich points to statistics from a report by Jeff Green Partners and Retail Focus, two real estate consulting firms, indicating that the average per capita income is $49,356 in the primary trade area, and tops $100,000 in average household income across the total trade area. Santa Monica's North of Montana neighborhood has an average household income of $195,000, and the downtown district is expected to grow by 12 percent in five years.
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