If shopping or consumption was the formula to create vibrant public spaces in the 80s and 90s, what is the strategy for the 21st century? If internet denizens no longer need to come downtown to shop or watch movies, why would they come at all? What other types of “publicness” will attract people to public space? Perhaps a vibrant public realm necessary to sustain a healthy retail district? If we can create public spaces that gather people around shared community and social activities, might this help bridge the political polarization created by the digital age?
Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade sits on the forefront of these questions. Since it first opened in 1989, it has established itself as one of the most successful, iconic and imitated public spaces in the world. But in the past three decades, as the competition for great urban places has increased across the region the retail, entertainment, dining landscape brought on by online-retailers, streaming video, and “fast-casual” restaurants has changed dramatically, and challenged the traditional tenant mix that sustained the Promenade’s success.
Recognizing these challenges, in early 2018 the City of Santa Monica and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc (DTSM) initiated the “Promenade 3.0” project – an urban design action plan to reinvent, reimagine and redesign the Promenade.
A key element of the Promenade 3.0 is “The Experiment” – a public space laboratory comprised of interactive seating and live entertainment elements first launched in September 2018. Utilizing the tools of “tactical urbanism” these pilot projects are intended to test concepts, hypothesis, and proposals for future investment. Each of the pilot is “testing” a proposition: freestanding picnic tables will gauge if the desire to get food to go and eat with family, friends, strangers; a play landscape will engage “play for all ages” and create new opportunities for families with children to visit; movable chairs ask if people would rather sit in small social groups they can adjust instead of fixed cast iron seats. As with any test, metrics through observations and data counts will be used to evaluate the success of various elements, and guide future design decisions.
Join Rios Clementi Hale Studios, Gehl People, City of Santa Monica and DTSM for to learn more about this process, observe pilot projects, and discuss the Promenade’s future
Speakers: Alan A Loomis, AICP, City Urban Designer, City of Santa Monica; Steven Welliver, Deputy Chief Executive, DTSM; Nate Cormier, Managing Studio Director, Rios Clementi Hale Studios; Sofie Kvist, Project Manager, Gehl
Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, Santa Monica, September 7, 2019