Yes, people walk in L.A. Well, Santa Monica to be more specific. Actually, the Third Street Promenade to be exact. Hey, itâ€™s a start. While the car is still king of southern California and the sidewalks for the peasants, certain communities have made a concerted effort to create public spaces, which bring people together in a pedestrian-friendly environment. Santa Monicaâ€™s Third Street Promenade is one of the success stories.
Stretching from Broadway to Wilshire and only three blocks from the Pacific Ocean, the Promenade is lined with hundreds of shops and restaurants, plus three first-run movie theaters and an independent cinema on Second Street.
A multitude of street performers (more than 700 permits handed out this year alone) compete for the attention and dollars of around 40,000 daily visitors. There are also an estimated 2,000 homeless in and around the Promenade, a very visible reminder of Santa Monicaâ€™s pervasive transient problem.
While the Third Street Promenade is a vibrant area, it wasnâ€™t always such a popular spot. There was a time when only the homeless would dare venture to this part of town.
The history of the promenade began in 1965 when the city of Santa Monica turned Third Street into a pedestrian mall hoping to lure people out of their cars. Unfortunately the people never came and by the â€˜70s the mall became a failed urban renewal project. That changed in the 1980s when former city councilmember and later mayor Dennis Zane helped lead an effort to revitalize the Promenade.
In 1984 the Santa Monica City Council created the Third Street Development Corporation. The nonprofit agency, later renamed the Bayside District Corporation, hired the architectural firm Roma Design Group to plan the redesign of Third Street. In 1988 a bond measure was passed to finance the project and the new Third Street Promenade officially opened on September 16, 1989.
With new movie theaters, a smaller and less imposing scale for pedestrians and even a road for occasional vehicle traffic (this was later removed), people started discovering the area.
Today the Third Street Promenade is a thriving commercial district which draws crowds day and night. The future looks promising as well. Santa Monica Place, the indoor mall that anchors the Promenade, is in the concept stage of a revitalization project which should integrate the shopping center more into the Promenade and offer more retail and dining choices.
With the gentrification efforts came chain stores such as Urban Outfitters, Barnes & Noble, Gap, an Apple computer store and the original Starbucks Hear Music Coffeehouse. Some residents are concerned independent businesses are being pushed out by the chains, but for now there is still a good mix of local and national stores and restaurants.
There is a popular farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday along Arizona Ave. Broadway Deli (1457 Third St.) and Johnny Rockets (1322 Third St.) both bring in hungry visitors. Yankee Doodles (1410 Third St.) packs them in for pool, food and beer.
Donâ€™t expect to be able to light up a cigarette within 20 feet of Yankee Doodles or any other non-government building around the city â€” the Santa Monica City Council recently extended their smoking ban to cover all public spaces, including restaurant patios.
There is a restless energy to the Third Street Promenade that isnâ€™t found in many other places around the greater Los Angeles area. The street performers, homeless, tourists and locals all provide something different upon every visit. The best thing about the Promenade is what it is missing â€“ cars.
From Long Beach take the 405 north to the 10 west and exit Fifth St. heading north, then head west on Arizona Ave. and enter one of the large parking structures surrounding the Promenade. For more information call (310) 393-8355 or visit www.downtownsm.com.
WORLD - CITY LIVING
Copyright © 2010 Josh Marks
Plenty to Do, See on Third Street
Copyright © 2010 Josh Marks
Read more articles on: los angeles , movie , california , environment , music , restaurant , traffic , santa monica
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