As society progresses, things go obsolete > businesses evolve, leaving last century’s model in a trail of new construction dust. Take the landmark Sears building that crowns the Santa Monica Promenade, for example. Seriously, do you know anyone whose went into the store during the last five years of its existence? Most likely not. And now that the end of the Expo Line is across the street and 64,000 riders walk by each weekday, there are better uses for the 1947 Streamline Moderne architectural gem than an old-time, department store that’s almost as large as an Amazon warehouse. That’s why this big-box landmark is going through a $50-million adaptive reuse renovation. The new property, to be known as the Mark 302, will feature sun-lit rental offices, a rooftop garden and a market hall where vendors sell food, drinks and other wares.
Re-envisioned by House & Robertson Architects the Sears / Mark 302 will offer nearly 53,000 square feet of office space on its top two floors and approximately 58,000 square feet of retail space at the ground and basement levels. Complimenting the Sears building’s landmark status, the historic exterior of the property shall remain intact, but substantial alterations are planned for its interior. The state-of-the-art retrofit will feature a new earthquake-resistant wooden bow-truss roof structure with skylights to introduce natural lighting into the building. The first-floor atrium is envisioned as an airy market hall showcasing 32 vendors; while the loading area on the west side of the building near Main St., will transform into a beer garden. An extra floor of office space is being created from what was formerly storage space. Landscaping and outdoor furniture will shape up on the oceanfront roof – an amenity exclusive to office tenants. Optimists believe the project will be finished by the end of the year.
The rental rate is expected to be in the neighborhood of $6 per square foot per month, almost twice as much as in downtown Los Angeles.
“The new Sears / Mark 302 project will create an office oasis, it’s a unique stand-alone building in a highly desirable location,” notes a local commercial real estate broker. “It’s an ideal opportunity for a business looking for a standout office location.”
Sears was already an American institution when they opened our building in Santa Monica in 1947. Sears, Roebuck and Co. was officially formed in 1893 > and in essence, they were the Amazon.com of their day. They had a 322-page catalog that featured sewing machines, bicycles, sporting goods, machine tooled furniture and a host of other necessary and desirable items.
The Santa Monica Sears at 302 Colorado Blvd. was built short walk from Santa Monica Pier on what used to be the edge of the business district of a sleepy working-class beach town. The building is a classic example of a late Streamline Moderne Commercial building < an architectural style evolved out of Art Deco design. The 110,000+ square foot structure is sensual blend of ivory-colored curves and angles, with horizontal ribs and aqua trim color to augment length.
From the early 1930s through into the 1950s, the Streamline Moderne style flourished in the United States. The design trend was influenced by science and mass production and complimented the modernist vision of the utopian future. Rounded corners and softened transitions flow into aerodynamic speed lines which complement the horizontal flow that identifies Streamline Moderne style.
Built during the post World War II boom, the Sears building is the only large retail store of that era in Santa Monica that was still operating under the same ownership. It still has its original neon sign, and the extensive parking behind the building captures the exploding car culture and consumerism of the post-war era. Catering to the booming growth of Southern California, the Santa Monica location was the 10th Sears store in Los Angeles County.
The Sears / Mark 302 redevelopment is one of a growing number of repurposed empty big-box stores vacated by fading traditional retailers, with many of those properties in the Sears family. In 2015, New York real estate developer and investment trust Seritage Growth Properties gained control of 253 Sears and Kmart stores with the intention of future redevelopment. The $2.7-billion deal involved leasing most of the properties back to Sears Holding Corp. until Seritage was ready to take further action.
Wise in its real estate resources, Sears Holding Corp. bought land and built stores in locations that remain desirable today. A portion of Westminster Sears in Orange County may be turned into residential apartments. In Boyle Heights, developer Izek Shomof plans to turn the striking Sears complex into a mixed-use residential community. In Hollywood, not far from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, CIM Group has plans to turn a Sears shuttered since 2008 into a mixed-use development with 375 residential units and almost 265,000 square feet of retail space. In San Diego, a Sears at Westfield UTC shopping center just east of La Jolla will probably be split in half to create a center courtyard and the two remaining pieces will be reconfigured for multiple shops and restaurants. Other former Sears or Kmarts could be repurposed for use by institutions such as schools or local governments.
The Santa Monica Sears is on three acres, smaller than the average Sears property, in part to having lost land to freeway construction and because the former Sears automotive center is now the light rail terminus. Be sure though, there is still enough property for future development subject to city approval.