Architects seeking public input for downtown revamp
A team of local architects from the Santa Barbara chapter of the American Institute of Architects is getting to work on conceptual sketches for what a revamped Downtown Santa Barbara could look like in the not too distant future.
To envision these concepts the architects, landscape architects, planners, and engineers involved in the project are seeking the input of Santa Barbara residents with a survey for AIA’s 2020 Design Charette.
The survey can be conducted online at aiasb.com. Those who wish to have their answers counted should fill out the survey by Aug. 2.
According to a press release, the architects and planners will divide into teams each focused on different aspects of the downtown area. These include how to create new housing by reusing existing vacant buildings, building new structures on “opportunity sites,” and developing public open spaces.
In an interview with the News-Press, Dennis Thompson of Thompson Naylor Architects said that this year’s charette is something of a “Charette 2.0.” A charette AIA conducted in 2017 produced renderings submitted to the Santa Barbara City Council that were ultimately “buried” when the city had to address new priorities in the wake of the Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow.
Mr. Thompson remarked that the renderings produced from this charette will depict “a new vision for Santa Barbara that addresses the shortage of housing and the death of retail.” To address the former, the AIA will create concept drawings for apartments to be built on underutilized parking lots throughout the downtown corridor. Though State Street was excluded from the city’s average unit density program that allows for higher density dwellings with less required parking, Mr. Thompson said apartment complex renderings produced from the charette will be drawn as if AUD applies because the program is expected to be reconsidered for State Street.
As for the latter, some of the AIA teams will look at what can possibly be done with vacant storefronts along State Street, as well as larger commercial spaces such as the vacant Nordstrom and Macy’s. Some possibilities include new housing or a branch of one of the local colleges, according to Mr. Thompson.
He added that the owner of the space Nordstrom once occupied even floated the idea of a hotel occupying the building.
However, Mr. Thompson said AIA is still brainstorming ideas for what could be done with vacant storefronts, so nothing is set in stone.
The charrette renderings will also include concepts for what the future of State Street could look like if its temporary promenade setup takes on a more permanent version. One of the questions the survey asks is whether State Street should remain permanently closed to vehicle traffic or open back up the way it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the survey results as of Friday, a vast majority of people who answered were in favor of keeping portions of State Street closed to traffic. Mr. Thompson told the News-Press he was “quite surprised” by just how many people hope the new State Street sticks around.
“I was shocked,” he said.
Also surprising to him is just how many people have responded to this survey after just less than a week.
“We’ve already gotten 2,000 responses, which blew me away,” he said.