WeHo’s Urban Designer Gives Positive Review to Development Proposed for Santa Monica at West Knoll

Proposed design for 8550 Santa Monica Blvd. (Aleks Istanbullu Architects)
Proposed design for 8550 Santa Monica Blvd. (Aleks Istanbullu Architects)

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he city Planning Commission’s Design Review Subcommittee will evaluate next week the building proposed for the empty lot at 8550 Santa Monica Blvd. and West Knoll Drive that once was the location of the Athletic Club and Palms bar buildings.

The three-story, 42,193-square-foot structure will be adjacent to the building now housing 24-hour Fitness, Capitol Drugs, LASC and other smaller businesses. The developer, Michael Talla, who owns the entire block. plans to lease part of the combined retail and commercial space to Sprouts, a grocery store chain that offers organic and natural foods. Plans are for Sprouts to occupy 20,000- square feet of the space with 5,000-square-feet of storage. The project also includes a 8,000-square-foot fitness center/gym and a 1,100-square-foot café with  outdoor dining. There also will be rooftop parking.

The project gets an overall positive review from Stephanie Reich, the city’s urban designer, who especially praised the plantings and greenery that are proposed.  In a report to the Design Review Subcommittee, Reich says “while the building occupies a substantial portion of the lot, there is landscaping proposed at every opportunity. There is a planting border at the front façade to provide low planting and opportunity for green wall / green screen. ..

“The design is simple yet sophisticated and a great addition to the heart of West Hollywood’s Main Street,” Reich concludes.

At a neighborhood meeting in November, local residents praised the project overall, although some raised concerns about additional traffic in the busy area. While the parking deck currently above 24 Hour Fitness has  259 spaces, Talla proposes to add 157 more.  There will continue to be only one entrance to the parking deck, where cars exiting sometimes have to wait because of foot traffic on the sidewalk.

Residents saw Talla’s proposed project as a major improvement on plans approved for the site in 2007 that called for a four-story, 44,000 retail-residential project. When the recession hit, Talla bought the property from owner Richard Killstock and opted to eliminate the proposed 20 luxury condominiums, thus making it entirely commercial.

If the project is approved by the Design Review Subcommittee, it will go to the city Planning Commission for review and construction could begin as early as May or June 2014. A 15-month construction period is expected.

The Design Review Subcommittee will meet next Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Plummer Park Community Center, Room 5, at 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. at Martel.

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Todd Bianco
5 years ago

@Paul – I think the fitness center is to be more like a yoga studio, spin studio or something complimentary to the existing 24 Hr Fitness. Since the landlord owns both lots and is the developer, he isn’t building a competitor to his main tenant in the west structure. The Koo Koo Roo has been leased and will be a Shake Shack, which will be VERY POPULAR. Given the revitalization of the south side of Santa Monica Blvd, there is likely a good business case for a restaurant at street level with a Sprouts Market as the anchor. There are… Read more »

Paul
Paul
5 years ago
Reply to  Todd Bianco

Appreciate you clarifying that. Thanks.

Paul
Paul
5 years ago

So let me understand this correctly; he is going to build an 8,000 square foot gym next to an existing 2 story gym? He’s going to build an 1,100 square foot restaurant with outdoor patio space next to the empty 1,000 square foot Koo Koo Roo restaurant which is next to the other empty restaurant? What am I missing here? And what does Stephanie Reich mean by plantings and greenery? The image above shows trees that already exist on SMB. Basically its a parking lot with no validation disguised as ‘mixed use’. The City Council members and City planners continue… Read more »

butnotrose
5 years ago

I;ve already ranted and raved about the design. But the parking prompted this copy I wrote on curbedla (too lazy to go over it again) “OMG the whole 24 hour fitness parking is that IT ENTERS MID STREET ON A CONGESTED PEDESTRIAN SIDEWALK with ZERO driveway/side spot for the cars to line up to get in. It is hard to BLAME 24 hr for this. The original Sports Connection was the first BIG Multi Level Multi Purpose gym concept. It was so in demand, THEY had no other space or opportunity than to turn their flat parking lot into the… Read more »

wehoenthusiast
wehoenthusiast
6 years ago

I like the comments about pedestrian bridges but also although most people wouldn’t have a problem, what about elderly or disabled people? Much different city but the way Vegas has handled pedestrian traffic safely is great, escalators to the bridges, and elevators for those unable to use the escalators. Just a thought.

Guy a
Guy a
6 years ago

My dream for this part of town that would make a huge impact on the “pedestrian” aspect… A walking bridge over SMB connecting the Tradre Joes area to the 24 hr/Sprouts area. Like the ones over the PCH that allow is to walk from city of SM to the beach. Yeah, prob a lot of money. BUT imagine how great this would be, increasing foot traffic over cars is always a good idea.

chrisc
chrisc
6 years ago

Mike Talla knows how to make gyms – anyone remember Sports Connection or Sports Club LA? I’m excited about it!

Lynn
Lynn
6 years ago
Reply to  chrisc

@Chrisc: no doubt he does, that is not the issue here. Seems to be one if strategic planning, a seldom visited concept.

El Futuro
El Futuro
6 years ago

Like the Big Dig in Boston. You’re right it will never happen, and frankly never should. I just feel that bridges and tunnels for pedestrians is a surrender to cars. I like cars, not as much as you, and both can live on the surface.

I don’t think this project is going to be as bad as what happens at trader joes. This project will be designed practically and with that example in mind. There isn’t a problem going into the Ramada or 24 hr fitness garages. This isn’t the Beverly Center it’s a grocery store.

Todd Bianco
6 years ago

@El Futuro Many years ago, probably just as WeHo was getting ready for its big makeover of Santa Monica Blvd/Old Route 66, the idea was floated that car traffic on Santa Monica Blvd should be routed underground from Doheny to La Cienega and that portion of SMB would become parks/public space with bike paths, That kind of urban planning would be very forward-thinking and progressive. But unfortunately that’s also nevergoingtohappen.com ™. A small version of what could have been is found in Silver Lake at the Sunset Triangle Plaza. Just a small part of Griffith Park Blvd where it merges… Read more »

El Futuro
El Futuro
6 years ago

@todd bianco…..I would prefer the cars in a tunnel and the pedestrians on level ground and in fresh air.

90069
90069
6 years ago

Agreed, that there should have been a residential component to this project. It would have been better as a Hancock Apartment like development. @SaveWeho, you don’t need to travel to Burbank to see a City invest in garages. Look at our neighbor in Beverly Hills with ample downtown parking, free to most of the public!

Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
6 years ago

but aren’t the plants along the façade just darling?

WHResident
WHResident
6 years ago

I think it’s ridiculous that this is 100% commercial. There are many grocery stores and gyms nearby and not enough new housing. Look at all the new apartments being built along La Brea. Why can’t that be done at this end of West Hollywood? There is no way that residents would create as much traffic as a gym and grocery store. The entrance to that garage is already a problem so adding 50% more parking will just make things worse.