An Extant Asset
Santa Monica is famous for quite a few reasons. Known mainly for its pier, I was always more attracted to the Third Street Promenade, that famed string of shops home to the fictional Mario’s Magic Shop and Chuck’s Bike-O-Rama where Pee-Wee’s bicycle was stolen. At the southern end of that celebrated row is the retail anchor of the area, Santa Monica Place.
It was a quick trip to Santa Monica on the Metro E Line from downtown LA, but the crowded, high-end feel of the area was in large contrast to the quieter scene downtown. Located just two blocks from the Santa Monica Pier, on my visit in 2018 the three-story outdoor shopping mall contained 90 small shops mainly housing premier brands, 475,000 square feet of gross leasable area and was anchored by top-end department stores Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. The third level food court sits mainly unblocked from the sun and was spacious enough to serve as a reprieve from the throngs of tourists below. After a busy day, it was nice to relax.
The first shopping mall designed by architect Frank Gehry, Santa Monica Place originally opened in 1980 housing 120 stores and restaurants on its three tiers. JW Robinson’s and The Broadway were the two anchors but were replaced by Robinsons-May and Macy’s, respectively, in the mid-1990s. A major remodel was carried out in 2010, with the interior corridors completely redesigned to the present layout. It was then that Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s joined the line-up.
Not all times have been rosy for the mall. In the mid-2000s, a proposal was put forth which would include a complete demolition of the facility to be replaced with a mix of high-rise offices and residences. Being out of character for the low-rise nature of the neighborhood, the scheme was never advanced past the planning stages. More recently, Bloomindale’s, a subsidiary of the ailing Macy’s chain, closed its store in 2021. But there’s not much to worry about with Santa Monica Place; with the pier close by and Pee-Wee’s bike having been recovered after an exhaustive search, the complex should be just fine.