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Report Suggests Downtown Changes

Jan 17, 2015 11:10AM ● By DigMB Staff
Big changes could be coming to downtown Manhattan Beach if changes suggested by Urban Land Institute, which presented its preliminary findings Friday, are implemented. 

ULI was hired by the MB City Council to study stakeholder opinions about downtown and make recommendations for the future.

The ULI panel presented an overview to the public Friday at a packed Joslyn Community Center. An initial printed report is available now, while a larger report will become available within several weeks. (Click to view/download the PDF of the initial ULI report.)

In its presentation Friday, ULI said that, overall, downtown is "functioning in a logical and healthy way," and said city officials need to "manage threats proactively." 

ULI also argued that the city and private sector (residents, property owners, merchants, etc.) simply need to get started on moving forward, and not delay the work needed to make progress.

Notably, ULI took the view that downtown needs to be more accommodating to visitors to support local businesses.

ULI also seemed dismissive of suggestions to regulate the types of businesses that can be located downtown, or of any suggestion of rent control within the downtown area.

ULI suggested that the city: 
  • Improve parking
  • Focus on attracting visitors
  • Encourage existing customers to spend more time and money downtown
Some other suggestions include
  • Developing more points of access to and from downtown on Valley Drive/Ardmore Avenue
  • Managing left-hand turn lanes
  • Locating parking structures closer to Valley/Ardmore
ULI also suggested turning some streets into new walkstreets, increasing parking rates (especially with "demand pricing," i.e., higher prices during peak times), encouraging or building new underground parking, and creating remote lots with shuttle service to downtown. The spirit of it all is to be more welcoming to visitors.

One of ULI's boldest recommendations was to create a Beach Plaza of open, public space that fronts the ocean where city parking lots currently are near the pier.

Some other notes made by ULI include:
  • Manhattan Beach's residents, merchants, and property owners are highly engaged
  • MB retail consists of 20% national or chain brand stores; other communities tend to range from 40-80%
  • 25% of MB's population has arrived since 2000
  • 70% of downtown MB consists of small retail shops which creates its village character
  • Downtown offers 400,000 square feet of retail space; Manhattan Village offers 550,00 sq. ft.
  • Visitors support 60% of downtown's overall retail space
For years, the city has been grappling with a burgeoning downtown scene and how to best serve residents, merchants and visitors. Recent demands for regulations of various kinds led to the city hiring the consulting firm.

The opinions expressed in ULI's report are meant to be reflective of a consensus of more than 100 residents and stakeholders interviewed by ULI, in addition to being the expert views of the ULI consultants. 

Next, the city will begin to try to translate the observations and recommendations of the ULI report into public policy for Manhattan Beach. Stay tuned!

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