The Santa Monica City Council authorized at its November 13th meeting the solicitation of proposals to redevelop the site of Parking Structure Number 3, on Fourth Street between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway, for subterranean parking, ground-floor retail and a “contemporary” cinema.

Both the city, the Bayside District board and the Bayside Land and Assets Committee recommended that the city solicit proposals to redevelop the parking structure.

“Movie theaters were critical to the revitalization of the Third Street Promenade and downtown in the late ’80s,” said Andy Agle, director of the city’s Housing and Economic Development Department.

The cinemas helped to make downtown a retail, dining and entertainment district, he said.

But over the past decade, new movie theaters have opened in the area that offer more choices and better amenities than are available in Santa Monica, Agle said.

Movie theaters with stadium seating, such as The Bridge at the Howard Hughes Center in Westchester, compete with those in Santa Monica.

In 2004, the Promenade Uses Task Force recognized the threat this posed to the future sustainability of the cinema market in Santa Monica, Agle said.

“The task force recognized that Santa Monica cinemas would become less competitive as newer cinemas are built in adjacent communities with contemporary amenities such as stadium seating,” Agle said. “The task force also recognized that the existing cinema sites are too small to accommodate contemporary cinemas and that additional sites may be necessary.”

The Promenade Uses Task Force process immediately followed the efforts of the Downtown Parking Task Force process, which called for the construction of some additional parking and reconstruction of Parking Structures 1, 3 and 6, Agle said.

The Promenade Uses Task Force suggested combining efforts and recommended that options to enhance the cinema experience “may include combined cinema development with the Downtown Parking Structure Reconstruction and Expansion Program.” Under that program, Parking Structure 3 is planned to be demolished and rebuilt, along with structures 1 and 6.

The city recently received an unsolicited proposal from Metropolitan Pacific Capital and Mann Theaters to “help pursue these goals” by expanding the Mann Criterion Cinema at Third Street and Arizona Avenue to include the site of Parking Structure 3, Agle said.

This would “allow for a redeveloped ‘cineplex’ on both sides to include underground parking, ground floor retail, contemporary movie theaters with stadium seating and a marquee and ticket booth remaining on the promenade,” Agle said.

City staff thinks this proposal presents an “excellent opportunity” and recommended that the city solicit proposals to determine private sector interest in this project.

Councilman Ken Genser pointed out that authorizing the solicitation of proposals does not mean the council is making any decisions “about what direction we want to go.”

“This is to basically test the waters” and allow contractors to submit proposals, Genser said.

Mayor Richard Bloom said, “Think about the benefits to having first-class modern, if you will, theaters that bring residents and visitors to the city. I think it’s something that we are missing. Right now, if you want to go see a movie at a stadium seating digital theater, you have to leave the City of Santa Monica.

“We pride ourselves on having virtually all the things a resident could want right here in the city. It’s the sustainable thing to do because it’s fewer car trips; you can take public transit.”

Bloom also said that “this type of proposal promises to improve the pedestrian environment on Arizona and on Fourth Street and will also help hopefully to create a more cohesive environment in that immediate area — so I’m pleased to support this.”

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