The treading of millions of feet each year through Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade adds to its success and also to its wear and tear, according to Santa Monica officials.

Facing competition from newly developed — and redeveloped — retail areas in Culver City and Century City, officials say upgrades are needed to keep the Promenade looking like a quality retail center that people will want to visit.

“For the most part, we are not asking for capital improvements, but replacements and simple maintenance,” says Kathleen Rawson, executive director of the Bayside District Corporation, which manages downtown, including Third Street, and advises the City of Santa Monica on ways to keep the area vital in the years ahead.

Unique in location and weather, the Third Street Promenade is a significant revenue generator for the city and welcomes thousands of visitors each month who shop, watch street performers and enjoy outdoor seating at the many restaurants, officials say.

Rawson says business is great and the area is almost 100 percent leased.

Still, officials say fixing and cleaning the streets and alleys is critical for the Promenade to remain competitive.

To support Rawson’s assessment of the Promenade’s success, first quarter sales tax receipts for the Third Street Promenade reported a 23.9 percent increase from the prior 12-month period.

Besides maintenance issues, the Bayside District Corporation wants to streamline the permit process for opening restaurants in the area.

“Alcohol permits are very labor intensive, costly and difficult,” Rawson says.

She adds that using a standardized set of conditions that a restaurant agrees to will make the process easier.

The business district is also looking to expand outdoor dining into the center areas of the Promenade.

“Outdoor dining is very profitable for the city,” Rawson says. “Guests like to people-watch and Santa Monica has the climate and atmosphere to support that,” she adds.

Rawson says the city will most likely expand existing outdoor dining for current restaurants.

Officials say street performers add ambiance to the outdoor dining experience and that expanding the dining areas won’t take away any substantial street performer space.

The business district board is also working to upgrade the movie theaters on the Promenade. While the theaters are adequate now, Rawson says in five to seven years it will be important to have state-of-the-art sound and stadium seating to remain competitive.

With a natural ebb and flow to the downtown area, Rawson says the Promenade has a good mix right now of retail and restaurants.

Some recent retail additions to the Promenade are Papyrus, a stationery and unique gift product store, CafÈ Crepe, a French cafÈ offering 48 types of crepes, and Quiksilver Boardriders Club Store.

Quiksilver, known for its diverse product line of clothing, accessories and wetsuits, opened on the Promenade in July and celebrated the opening with a book signing by six-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater.

More than 300 people lined up to meet Slater and have him autograph his new book, Pipe Dreams, according to Quiksilver representatives.

“Third Street is the perfect retail location and it embodies the stylish outdoor lifestyle of the Quiksilver brand,” says Gregg Solomon, senior vice president of retail stores for Quiksilver.

“People can enjoy being outside while shopping and then hit the beach afterward,” he adds.

Solomon says the store has been well received and the company is excited about being in such a prime location.

In addition to the Promenade, Rawson says the business district board supports plans to redevelop and update the Santa Monica Place mall.

She also adds that Second and Fourth Streets are finally taking off and companies are investing on these streets.

Rawson says a “perceived” view of crime is a challenge the area faces.

“Perceived’ is an important word here because with the homeless situation, sometimes the perception is that the crime rate is higher, but crime statistics say the Bayside area doesn’t have a crime issue,” Rawson says.

Official research shows that almost all Santa Monica residents come to the downtown area on a regular basis.

“It’s an incredible destination and our job is to maintain that success in the years to come,” Rawson says.

Julie Kirst can be reached at jkmailtalk@yahoo.com

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