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Big Deal
Santa Monica gives major projects the go-ahead.
The project features streetfront retail with residential units above.
Courtesy Gensler

Earlier this month, the Santa Monica City Council approved Bergamot Transit Village Center, a development put together by Hines and designed by Gensler. The contentious 767,000-square-foot project is one of the biggest in the Los Angeles area. It includes 473 residential units, 26 artist work/live units, over 370,000 square feet of creative office space, 15,500 square feet of restaurant space, and almost 14,000 square feet of retail space.

The development stretches along Olympic Boulevard between Cloverfield and Centinela. It consists of five buildings, each five to seven stories tall, each to be built by a different developer. Hines itself is not taking an active role in the construction of the property. The company is instead seeking entitlements, which dictate the kinds of buildings that can be developed.

Gensler's Bergamot Transit Village Center includes staggered facades, street-level retail, and several varied buildings. It took six years to receive approval.

The buildings differ in color, transparency, and scale through different facade treatments, such as undulating vertical metal screens, balconies that switch from floor to floor, and soft wooden shading elements on the residential blocks. All this variety breaks up the large scale of the project. An expansive public plaza opens at the corner of Olympic and Cloverfield. In the plaza sits a curved building, with bridges on three levels connecting to adjacent mixed-use space. The multi-family residential zone includes a neighborhood park and landscaped pedestrian paseo.

Despite the city’s approval of the project, some locals and officials have been outspoken in their opposition. They have criticized the lack of affordable housing (and lack of housing in general), the overall scale and massing of the project, traffic and parking impacts, and limited pedestrian access and enclosed open space.


“This doesn’t do anything to solve the jobs-housing imbalance in the city,” said Richard McKinnon, a member of the city’s planning commission. “We don’t want a repeat of the Water Garden (a suburban-style office complex nearby) which is uninspiring, overdone, and has no street life,” he added.

The design underwent four iterations before the Planning Commission approved the current version. Proposals to increase housing, including the number of low-income units, were rejected. The project is expected to add an annual $420,000 to the city’s general budget, as well as a one-time tax revenue injection of approximately $1.7 million. Estimates on job creation, including construction jobs, are slightly more than 2,300.

Also in Santa Monica, Pelli Clarke Pelli was recently selected to redesign the 86-year-old Fairmont Miramar Hotel. Pelli is known locally for his Pacific Design Center and internationally for the Patronas Towers in Malaysia, the world’s tallest twin towers. The plans call for the replacement of two old buildings by three new ones. The hotel’s historic Palisades Building will be restored and renovated. The plan also includes a one-acre public garden on the corner of Wilshire and Ocean and retail along the corner of Wilshire and Second Street.

Guy Horton