PASEO NUEVO PROJECT: A PEEK BEHIND PASEO’S PROGRESS
Scuttlebutt amongst locals when they pass by the construction at Paseo Nuevo ranges from, “It was already beautiful, why did they destroy it?” to “At least I can still take my selfies on the stairs.”
For Paseo Nuevo officials, they want to make every corner selfie-worthy — but also a place where you want to congregate with friends and family, even if shopping isn’t on the docket.
“Shopping centers are changing, you have to have that daily use where people come out to exercise, shop or grab their juice,” said Mary Lynn Harms-Romo, Paseo Nuevo’s senior marketing director.
“The future of these shopping centers are intended to be more gathering spaces.”
A couple of months into the shopping center’s remodel — with Ms. Harms-Romo saying that it is up to a 12-month process — and construction has remained mainly on schedule, with only a pair of surprises.
As workers dug up the pavers in front of the stairs at the entrance to Nordstrom from Canon Perdido, they found a five-foot sinkhole that was the result of rubble that had been buried. It’s now fully repaired.
Paseo Nuevo officials made sure it had limited impact on business for Nordstrom.
“We first thought about how much it could hurt Nordstrom, but they were fantastic to work with,” Ms. Harms-Romo said. “Safety was more important to them. We put up additional signage and promotions up for them quickly.”
Is there concern that there are other sinkholes?
“Yes, there could be, but we would find it, we are literally digging everything up,” Ms. Harms-Romo said. “We are pulling up old pavers, testing the depth of the soil, we even found some places where utilities weren’t buried deep enough. We are making sure that everything is properly done.”
On the south side of Paseo, workers — who mainly keep overnight hours to minimize the impact on shoppers — are in the process of completing a groundwater tank that will allow the center to use recycled water on new landscape. While prepping the 17-foot well, the sides collapsed and had to be rebuilt. Once that was done, workers tried to dig a bit deeper, only to run into ground water, causing the hole to fill up like a swimming pool.
Workers have since adjusted their plans and are nearing the leveling-off period where the tank will disappear from sight, turning into an oversized fire pit for the community to enjoy.
“We have a soil inspection person on site throughout the project, just to keep an eye on things, assess any problems,” Ms. Harms-Romo said.
One potential problem that Paseo Nuevo officials anticipated was that construction wouldn’t end prior to the critical holiday shopping season — so it will stop on Nov. 15 and no further development will be done until the week after New Year’s.
Santa Claus, the Christmas tree and snow shows are safe.
“We wouldn’t dare mess with those traditions here in Santa Barbara,” Ms. Harms-Romo said.
The bulk of the construction should be complete by Nov. 15, with the current areas featuring barricades taking a bit longer due to utilities that need to be secured prior to top soil being put down and new pavers applied to the surface.
Ms. Harms-Romo expects that the work to complete the pathways within the south barricades will be done by the end of August, while the work on the north side concluding by the end of September.
The barricades will all shift across their respective pathways, with that work going much quicker due to no underground utilities, allowing it to potentially finished by November.
There are also a pair of art installations that are in the works, with one being pushed to be complete by the holidays.
Local artist Kym Cochran is in the middle of creating an experience along the corridor that stretches along the Ortega Building (formerly Macy’s), focusing on educating locals and tourists about the three different types of kelp in the area, as well as a replica of how tides work with our shoreline.
“We want to create an experience,” said Ms. Harms-Romo, who added that there would be a new bocce ball court at the De la Guerra entrance.
“You can go from working out, to grabbing a bite, to sitting down and enjoying this educational art feature. We aren’t just a shopping center.”
Once the holiday season has passed, another pair of artists are currently working on an art installation that will feature lights, much like what was featured during Experiment Weekend on State Street. Mainly focused in Center Court, the artists will utilize the large white walls to project their respective shows.
“We want to be innovative and show how vibrant downtown can be,” Ms. Harms-Romo said.
And, to date, the privately funded project by Pacific Retail Capital Partners has remained on its $20 million budget, with more than $200,000 going to help fund these art projects.
And Ms. Harms-Romo says the investment was warranted with the shopping center on the eve of its 30th birthday.
“Infrastructure wise, this was necessary. With the amount of storm water we had the last two winters, our drainage wasn’t right and we didn’t know why. Now we do,” Ms. Harms-Romo said. “And the needs to our guests have changed, it’s not just about shopping, it’s also dining, events and gathering spaces. We hope that we can spur other private business or the city to do similar things with their spaces.”
Many rumors have swirled around what will become of the Ortega Building over recent months, from an ice-skating rink to any number of big-name retailers.
As of now, the only tenants that is secured is World of Magic, who occupied the building in 2018. They plan to open in September and stay through Halloween.
The Night Market will return shortly thereafter, and they are indeed working on the structural requirements for an ice-skating rink that would only be a feature of the holiday season.
Ms. Harms-Romo says that the Ortega Building will be a focus of Phase 2 of the Paseo Nuevo facelift, and she understands the intrigue behind what it’ll become.
“We want to get the feedback of the community as to what they want in there,” Ms. Harms-Romo said.
One business that isn’t waiting to join in on the new-look shopping center is Orangetheory Fitness Studio, who is aiming to move into its Chapala Street storefront gym in February, with construction starting in October.
Orangetheory plays into a larger goal for Paseo Nuevo in creating more synergies between the local businesses on Chapala Street.
“We believe locals access us more from Chapala Street and tourists from State Street,” Ms. Harms-Romo said. “We’ve treated Chapala like a backdoor, but we are looking to create two front doors.”
With its current tenants, Paseo Nuevo has fielded a handful of questions about the timing of construction, particularly because it is during prime tourism season.
Ms. Harms-Romo says that it is because of the tourists that this was the time to start.
“No matter what, this is a 10- to 12-month process, so we we’re going to hit tourists at some point,” Ms. Harms-Romo said. “We were very focused on making sure we didn’t interrupt the holiday season, so we had to start now. When businesses show concern, we work with them to make sure we address their issues.”
With mostly cosmetic work to be done after construction starts back up in January, Ms. Harms-Romo anticipates that there will be a grand re-opening in April.
And, at that point, Paseo Nuevo officials plan to bury a time capsule, much like the one they found at the outset of construction. The capsule was buried 30 years ago during construction of the shopping center, featuring a News-Press front page from July 4, amongst random other items.
Over the course of the next few months, officials plan to utilize social media to have the community dictate what should be in the new one.
“We can’t wait to see what random things people will want to put in there,” Ms. Harms-Romo said. “But it’ll be reflection of our community.”