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Santa Monica mulling big redevelopment of Bergamot Arts Center

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The complex could be transformed with creative office space and a hotel

View of Bergamot Station Google Maps

The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday will review ambitious plans for a major overhaul of the Expo Line-adjacent Bergamot Arts Center.

The 5-acre, city-owned complex is currently home to a group of five buildings that house a mix of art galleries and designer spaces, along with the nonprofit City Garage Theatre and the Bergamot Cafe.

Under a new proposal, detailed in a city staff report, the center could be redeveloped with 65,700 square feet of gallery and cultural space, a 21,100-square-foot museum, 9,000 square feet of additional art-related space, 30,000 square feet of creative office space, a seven-story hotel, and more.

The project would be developed by the Worthe Real Estate Group, which the city brought on as a development partner in 2014. On Tuesday, the council will decide lease the land to the Worthe Group for at least the next three years.

Santa Monica purchased land around what is now the 26th Street/Bergamot station back in 1989, using public transit funds. Since then, it has used rent money collected from leaseholders to subsidize the city’s Big Blue Bus system.

Right now, the city collects $552,553 per year from its current lessee, developer Wayne Blank. Not bad—but with a new arrangement, that number could go way up.

City staff estimates that, under the Worthe proposal, the amount collected from the ground lease would rise to $700,000. Additionally, a 120-room hotel would produce nearly $1.5 million in transit occupancy tax revenue, while money brought in from property taxes would also rise.

In spite of these economic incentives, Santa Monica Next notes that the project still faces resistance—particularly from gallery owners operating at the current complex who worry their businesses will be displaced.

An advisory committee brought on to review the project also recommended against including the hotel in the project, though that would be one of the largest sources of income for both the city and the project’s developer.

The City Council will discuss the plans at its 5:30 p.m. meeting on June 13.