3rd Street Promenade Concept Design

Project information
Santa Monica, California
City of Santa Monica & Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.

Evolving retail landscapes are providing opportunities to turn mono-functional shopping areas into mixed-use community assets.

Sofie Kvist
Director, Gehl
The Challenge

An opportunity to refocus

Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade is one of the most successful pedestrianized shopping streets in the United States. Like many retail centers around the globe, it has been subject to the challenges of the changing retail landscape. In 2018, the City of Santa Monica and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) engaged Gehl and RIOS to guide “Promenade 3.0” –a permanent transformation of Third Street Promenade built around public engagement, a new concept design, and interim pilot projects.  

When asked about the Promenade, visitors stated their desires as well as what they loved about the street atmosphere.

DTSM Street Ambassadors surveyed over 500 people along the Promenade.

The Impact

Activating retail landscape

Gehl and RIOS delivered a comprehensive placemaking framework for the street centered around infrastructure improvements, innovative tenanting, and active public space management. 

The team collaborated with the client to craft a set of goals for Promenade 3.0. The process began with a Public Space Public Life (PSPL) benchmark survey, followed by a complete infrastructure survey to understand the surrounding environment. The PSPL survey revealed that while foot traffic on the Promenade was high, invitations to spend time were limited–especially after shops closed. When asked about the Promenade, visitors expressed a desire for more diverse food offerings, activities for children and families, and more events while also stating their love for the street’s atmosphere.
Using the survey data, a set of hypotheses was formulated for what improvements could lead to more consistent foot traffic, engagement, and activity along the Promenade.

To test visitor responses to new and different invitations to play, spend time, and interact with one another, the team developed a series of pilot projects. These pilot programs came to be known as “the Experiment” and ran for two months, providing insights into what interventions would encourage more extensive and diverse crowds to spend time along the promenade.

Rendering for the vision behind Promenade 3.0 (Image Credit: RIOS)

The Promenade, once avoided by locals, was revitalized by this project and became more than just a tourist attraction. Before the Experiment, only around 1% of visitors would stop to spend time along the Promenade; during the Experiment, this increased to nearly 10%. Gehl provided activations through seating, games, and programming, inviting a more diverse audience to spend time on the Promenade and, in return, increased sales to the surrounding stores.

Based on surveys and lessons learned from the pilot projects, the team created a concept design for the permanent redesign of the Promenade. The concept design was approved by the City Council in late 2019. With implementation before COVID-19, the project brought a sense of assurance to the area, and despite the harsh impacts the Promenade faced during the pandemic, its transformation was well underway. The responsive vision and design for Promenade 3.0 and the ongoing changes being carried out support the evolution of Third Street’s success into the future. 

Playful installations, such as a see-saw and life-sized chess board, created opportunities for all ages to have fun.

Get in touch

Want to know more about this project?

Partner, Head of Climate, Team Director US Enterprise & Corporations
Blaine Merker
Sofie Kvist
Our services

Delivering impact through a multidisciplinary approach

Public Life Data

Public Life Data, the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative information about how people use and engage with public spaces, uncovers the true picture of how design impacts behavior. Our teams use this collected analysis to develop strategies and plans that foster more equitable, healthy and climate-positive lifestyles.

Urban Strategy

Urban Strategy is the foundation upon which form, function and behaviour are created. Our holistic approach always starts with asking what life should exist in place, what spaces invite for that life, and what buildings and facilities support this. People and life first, always.