Up Front With Kathleen Rawson: CEO Of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.
Posted Dec. 18, 2012, 12:53 am
Brenton Garen / Editor-in-Chief
For the past 15 years, Kathleen Rawson has served as the CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM), a private/non-profit company contracted with the City of Santa Monica to manage programs in Downtown Santa Monica, including the world-famous Third Street Promenade. DTSM is responsible for overall strategic planning, promotions and daily operations for the area. During this time, Rawson has balanced a variety of competing interests in a challenging political environment to build one of the largest and most effective downtown organizations in the West.
What is DTSM doing this holiday season to support members for the holiday season?
Every year Downtown Santa Monica presents Winterlit holiday programs and events that take place throughout the season.
We recently celebrated the Grand Opening of our ICE at Santa Monica skating rink with a spectacular community event that featured professional skating performances, a concert by renowned local band Venice, cookie decorating, and free skating for everyone. The event drew more than 800 attendees despite inclement weather. ICE at Santa Monica has been open for six years and has become a beloved holiday tradition that draws thousands of visitors every season.
In partnership with Santa Monica Place, DTSM helped stage a Community Tree Lighting celebration. Santa made his way down the Promenade in a horse-drawn carriage surrounded by carolers, acrobat performers, mounted police officers, and even a fire engine – all of whom helped to ensure he arrived in time to light the tree.
On Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, DTSM’s “Santa’s Little Savers” surprised select customers at the register and paid up to $100 of their purchase. For the younger crowd, there was free ornament decorating out on the Promenade.
In celebration of Chanukah, DTSM will be hosting Menorah Lighting on different nights through the eight-day holiday.
What are some fun things people can enjoy now and look forward to throughout the rest of the holidays in DTSM?
ICE at Santa Monica remains open until January 21. The rink has extended its hours during the holiday season for those who are on school break, visiting friends, and family in the area or looking for festive winter activities. There are hockey clinics, and ice lessons for those looking to sharpen their skating skills.
The weekend before Christmas, there will be free kids crafts and gift-wrapping at booths along the Promenade.
DTSM will provide lists of businesses offering specials or events for New Year’s Eve on its website.
As it has for the last seven years, DTSM is partnering with Santa Monica Place to support the Police Activities League’s (PAL) “Best Gift Ever” Toy Drive. Throughout the season, community residents and local businesses have been invited to donate gifts at drop-off locations including ICE and Santa Monica PAL (1401 Olympic Boulevard). On December 18, community volunteers and local dignitaries will gather to wrap the donated gifts and then distribute to hundreds of children who might not otherwise receive presents this holiday season.
What are some of the new initiatives you are excited for regarding DTSM in 2013?
In 2011-2012, we worked hard to set the wheels of change in motion. Working together with the City, DTSM staff and board members spent innumerable hours helping to guide the planning process. In the year to come, DTSM will be actively engaged in everything related to Downtown’s continuing evolution.
We are fast approaching, or are at, the construction phase of many major developments that will change the way we utilize, access and traverse Downtown. Projects we’re excited about include:
• Downtown Specific Plan
Finalizing a document that articulates the types of buildings that can be built in Downtown Santa Monica, and addresses key issues such as parking, traffic, circulation, wayfinding and design, and density.
• 4th/5th Street & Arizona Development
The newest chapter in the evolution of Downtown Santa Monica will be the development of City-owned properties between Fourth and Fifth Streets, south of Arizona Avenue, into an exciting new mixed-use development project.
• Expo Line & Colorado Esplanade
The Expo Light Rail Line is the first mass transit line to connect Downtown Los Angeles with the Westside. The 15.2 mile Expo Line is expected to arrive in Downtown Santa Monica with the opening of new station at 4th & Colorado. The City is also creating the Colorado Esplanade connecting the Station and Downtown.
What is the outlook in the New Year in terms of vibrancy for the Third Street Promenade?
Third Street Promenade and Downtown Santa Monica are very well positioned going into 2013. Sales are expected to hit an all-time high next year on the Promenade and Downtown overall.
• New stores for 2013 include the new Apple flagship store (this Saturday), Madewell, Dr. Martens and Patagonia.
• Barnes & Noble has extended its lease for the company’s flagship store on the Promenade.
• Many retail businesses are planning or have recently completed major remodels including Levi’s, J. Crew and Club Monaco.
• New restaurants include Stout, Burger Lounge, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, CiBoteca, and Del Frisco’s Grille.
• Downtown office space has among the highest occupancy rates in the nation.
• Residential demand and the residential development pipeline are exceptionally strong.
• Area hotel occupancy rates are among the highest in the nation and a number of new hotels are in the planning stages.
• Cooperative efforts continue with the Santa Monica Police Department to maintain our exceptionally low crime rate and to address issues related to transients.
• Parking, Traffic and Circulation improvements continue to be the focus of the organization.
Downtown Santa Monica should continue to benefit as the regional and national economies continue to rebound. For visitor projections, we expect 2013 will remain strong despite economic challenges in Europe and Asia.
How else is Downtown Santa Monica helping the community to thrive and grow?
DTSM is very proud of the success of all its programs, but most especially the Ambassador and Maintenance programs. Downtown Santa Monica’s Ambassadors provide a welcome face for the District and assist guests. The Ambassador Program deploys hospitality guides throughout Downtown, on foot and on Segway to provide concierge services for Downtown users; to report on maintenance issues; and to serve as “eyes and ears” to quality of life issues that should be reported to the Santa Monica Police Department. The Ambassadors continue to receive kudos from locals and visitors alike for their friendly, conscientious service and dedication.
The enhanced maintenance program for Downtown continues to provide a significantly improved environment for all who live, work and visit Downtown Santa Monica. Our offices receive many comments on the improvements over the last four years.