Following enthusiastic approval from the Santa Monica Planning Commission in May, a Frank Gehry-designed mixed-use beachfront development has now received an equally warm blessing from the entire Santa Monica City Council. Monica, the board members praising the $350 million project. speak Santa Monica Daily Press.
Council’s 6-0 approval of the project’s development agreement, bolstered by an estimated $53.3 million community benefits package, marks a milestone for the redesign of Ocean Avenue at the head de Gehry, which has been running since 2013 and has been subjected to a handful of design revisions over the years. Blending new construction with the adaptive reuse of two historic buildings designated as landmarks by the city, the project is also a sort of coastal throwback for Gehry, whose notable early work (including his own home) is near the breezy beaches of Santa Monica and neighboring Venice.
With the Santa Monica City Council now lined up behind the project, there are a small handful of critical approvals that must be sought before building permits can be officially issued and construction can begin. Then local developer Worthe Real Estate Group must present the project to the California Coastal Commission for final approval; the project must also undergo design review by the Santa Monica Architectural Review Board and Landmarks Commission. Once these boxes are checked and work begins, the LEED Platinum targeting project is expected to last three years.
Encompassing an entire downtown block of the historic seaside town just down the Third Place Promenade – anchoring Santa Monica Place (originally designed by Gehry as his first mall project), the project is for use mixed through and through, with Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich exclaiming that the yet-to-be-named resort “has it all.”
“This project brings together historic and new architecture to create a very special place on Ocean Avenue,” she said.
As detailed in a press announcement, key elements of the development, as proposed, include a 120-room full-service hotel with a spa and meeting and banquet facilities; 100 apartments, ranging from studios to three bedrooms with a mix of affordable market-priced (64), rent-controlled (19) and deed-restricted (25) units; just over 36,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and commercial space; a newly created pedestrian mall and many open public spaces at street level, as well as a large underground car park which will include plenty of bicycle parking spaces and spaces equipped with an EV charger.
Notably, the development will also include a so-called “Cultural Uses Campus” which includes a new museum building and two historic buildings restored and reused on the site. According to the city, the future museum “will be designed to attract and exhibit works by significant local, international, established and emerging artists and architects” and “will also feature exclusive pieces from the Frank Gehry Archive for at least 15 years.” A range of educational and community programs will also be offered at the museum, which is expected to generate $1.8 million in annual benefits for the city. Discounted admission will be offered to Santa Monica residents and younger visitors.
Physically, the whole will be complemented by a 5,000 square foot rooftop observation deck offering breathtaking panoramic views of Santa Monica Bay. Rooftop space will be freed up for events hosted by local nonprofits once a month, and net proceeds from the $1 admission fee applied to visitors over 10 will be donated to the Santa Monica Education Foundation.
The project also includes more than $6 million in one-time monetary contributions, including $2,160,000 for Santa Monica parks and recreation projects, $2,225,000 for improving local transportation infrastructure, $1,000,000 for early childhood initiatives such as preschool grants and $400,000 for affordable housing. Finally, the benefits package includes $250,000 for what the city describes as “equity and economic opportunity initiatives.” This includes “seed funding to support local entrepreneurs in disadvantaged communities and investments in community partnerships and related nonprofits.”
Additionally, Santa Monica residents currently living in rent-controlled units on the development site will have moving costs to “alternative residences” covered by Worthe Real Estate Group, with the rent for these new apartments remaining the same. Once the project is completed, these residents will have the opportunity to move into the new development with rents in line with pre-construction rates.
2,800 new jobs are expected to be created by the development, with $258.2 million in one-time economic outputs based on construction efforts, $59.8 million in annual economic outputs based on operation annual on-site hotel, retail and estimated household spending. , and estimated annual tax impacts of $6.2 million ($3.4 million net) to the city’s general fund to support city services, according to projections shared by the city.