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And They're Off
Santa Monica selects design/development teams for major downtown project. Among them is OMA.
The project site at Arizona Avenue between 4th and 5th streets.
Courtesy Bing Maps

Santa Monica has selected three design and development teams to create a mixed-use project on a 2.5-acre parcel downtown. The site, on Arizona Avenue between 4th and 5th streets, is currently home to two banks and a surface parking lot.

The short list includes OMA with VTBS and OLIN; Robert A.M. Stern with Brooks + Scarpa; and Koning Eizenberg, Rios Clementi Hale, and RTKL. The teams have until May to submit their proposals.

This could be OMA’s breakthrough in Southern California, a region where Rem Koolhaas’ hopes have repeatedly been dashed. An ambitious proposal to redesign LACMA was scuttled by the museum’s board; a sleek headquarters for Universal Pictures in the San Fernando Valley never went ahead, and a contemporary art museum for philanthropist Eli Broad in downtown LA went to Diller Scofidio + Renfro (OMA came in second in the competition).

The other firms in the running are more experienced in the region. VTBS has designed mixed-use complexes around Los Angeles; Robert A.M. Stern has designed over a dozen projects in California, from homes to medical centers; OLIN worked on the Getty Center and Pershing Square; Brooks + Scarpa recently re-designed several parking garages around the corner from the Santa Monica site; Rios Clementi Hale just completed the Grand Park in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles; RTKL master planned the giant LA Live complex in South Park; and Koning Eizenberg is now working on the Santa Monica Library’s new Pico Branch.

The request for proposals calls for a mixed-use development that would include some combination of retail, cultural, office, hotel, and residential uses. The city has not given the teams any size constraints, but Jason Harris, Santa Monica’s economic development division manager, said that the city has suggested a scale in keeping with the neighborhood. Such parameters would put the project at around 130 feet tall with a floor area ratio of 3.0.

The RFP also calls for a “programmable gathering space that adds to the community’s civic life with public gatherings and seasonal activities.” Currently, the city hosts an ice skating rink on the site in the winters. Harris said he hopes that use will be maintained and augmented by other new uses.

The developers on the shortlist include Forest City, Metropolitan Pacific Capital/Clarett West Development, and Related. The winning team will be selected in May.

Harris said he hopes the winning proposal will be “significant” and “signature.” “We’d like it to rival the Santa Monica pier for Instagram photos,” he said.

Sam Lubell