BY DAVID MARK SIMPSON
Daily Press Staff Writer
DOWNTOWN Owners of the Third Street Promenade food court want to give it afarmers’ market feel. Centennial Real Estate and Lincoln Property Co., who recently paid $20.5 million for the five-story building where the food court is located, want to open it up and potentially get some new tenants. They have plans for a “substantial renovation,” a Centennial official told members of Downtown Santa Monica Inc., the public-private management company that promotes and maintains Downtown on behalf of City Hall. The renovations are valued at $4 million and could start as early as the spring, according to a press release from Lincoln Properties. On Tuesday afternoon, more than half the food court seats were taken — filled with local employees and tourists — but the space is dark and narrow. There’s an open-air second floor looking down on the promenade but you have to enter the cavernous hallway to get there. “It feels like you’re walking through a bus station,” said Centennial Managing Partner Scott Schonfeld. “When you walk by it’s very dark. You know the McDonald’s is there because they’re right on the end of the promenade but it’s really hard to see what’s back behind them.” Behind them is a sushi restaurant, a candy store, a burrito joint, and a bunch of other little eateries. Falafel King moved out recently and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant,which was on the second floor, moved out over the summer. What Santa Monica Place did, putting in smaller food stations, would be ideal he said. “You don’t have to walk into each store,”Schonfeld said. “Each tenant has their own identity but really you walk right up to the counter.” Some tenants, like McDonald’s, do good business and are into the idea of a redesign, he said. They would likely stay. But Centennial has a list of hundreds of tenants that would match up well with their vision. He mentioned plans for Mediterranean, Asian, and Mexican concepts. One idea is to bring in some restaurants from the farmers’ market at The Grove in Los Angeles. “They’ve been there for a long time,” he said. “They operate tiny spaces and theymake high quality food.” It would also match up with their intended farmers’ market vibe, with rustic materials and lots of natural light. Kathleen Rawson, president and CEO of Downtown Santa Monica Inc., stressed the need for fast, affordable options on the promenade. “I’m delighted that you’re keeping the quick food options because our staff, working down here every single day, and then us multiplied by 27,000 other employees who work in Downtown, it’s an important amenity that we need,” she said. Schonfeld wants to get unified signage, as opposed to the current hodgepodge of styles, and make sure people know about all the food options from the promenade. The ceiling is three feet lower than it needs to be, he said, and they plan to raise that to allow more natural light. “Despite the fact that it will continue to be fast food it doesn’t need to feel like such an old, dated food court,” he said. Vice President of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Debbie Lee is interested in using the food court to activate the alley between it and Parking Structure 3. “I can’t tell you how many people don’t know that they can walk through the food court to the promenade,” she said. Schonfeld suggested perhaps adding an awning to the back entrance. Consultant for Downtown Santa Monica Inc., Rob York, said they would need to deal with pigeons and evening temperatures. He pointed to a recent overhaul of a food court in Downtown Los Angeles. “They renovated a terrible ‘70s food court, not unlike this, and put in food truck vendors, something a little edgier that created a much more interesting presentation of the product as well, which can certainly work here,” York said.