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Old Papermate Factory in Santa Monica Pens New Life as Creative Office Space


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

September 26, 2017 -- Twelve years after closing, the long-vacant Papermate factory in Santa Monica’s Bergamot neighborhood is penning life anew as a slightly more than 200,000 square feet in modern creative office space.

Santa Monica’s Pen Factory is finally complete, contractor Morley Builders said last week on its Facebook page.
Pen Factory Exterior

Compared to the controversy-filled period that followed Papermate’s closure in 2005, the site’s official re-birth as the Pen Factory was subdued.

“Congratulations to our partners, SOM Architects, Clarion Partners, Lincoln Property Company and to our project team," Morley wrote in its Facebook page Thursday.

"The transformation of this building into a modern creative office space makes it an excellent new addition to Silicon Beach. Check out the signature 'pen stripes' on Olympic and 26th Street.”

Pen Factory exterior (Courtesy Morley Builders)

In 2014 -- after years of debate -- the City Council approved the site as the location for Bergamot Transit Village. The 765,000-square-foot complex would have included offices, 427 apartments located within walking distance from the future Expo light rail station and retail.

The City’s agreement with Texas developer Hines also included $32.2 million in community benefits to schools, parks and public streets over the next 55 years.

Supporters heralded the project for adding housing next to transit -- a major goal for the environmentally conscious council. They also said it was better than allowing Hines to convert the site into office space, without negotiating community benefits.

Proposed Bergamot Village site at night
Bergamot Transit Village Center at night. (Images from plans filed with City of Santa Monica Planning Department)

But residents already fed up were angered by the thousands of new car trips the project would add daily and argued it was mostly office and commercial space with little affordable housing ("Hines Project Shrinks in Response to Criticism," August 17, 2011).

Activist Armen Melkonians created the online site to start a grassroots petition drive to put a referendum before voters and, within days, had far more valid signatures than needed for the November election ("Santa Monica Referendum Gathers More than 13,000 Signatures," March 12, 2014).

In a rare move, the council then rescinded its decision on Bergamot. Hines subsequently sold the site to its current owners, who added little to the original 196,317-square-foot footprint ("Slow Growth Advocates Claim Victory in Battle Over Controversial Santa Monica Development," May 15, 2014).

Pen Factory adds about 7,499 square feet, and the office park relies on adaptive re-use of the existing, vacant building for creative office space, according to the City’s website.

The building renovation includes a new mezzanine level, three new elevators, four new exit stairs, toilet rooms, outdoor decks, and a courtyard. The existing building height will remain unchanged.

The parking structure includes elevators, two exit stairs, shower and toilet room, and bicycle storage. The proposed parking structure is located where there is existing surface parking.

In the end, the development required only Administrative Approval.

On Monday, those who successfully fought off Bergamot Transit Village were glad to welcome Pen Factory.

“Whenever I drive by the Pen Plant I feel such a sense of pride as one of the more than 13,000 Santa Monica residents who circulated and signed the referendum to stop the massive development,” said Tricia Crane, who has also been a leader for Residocracy.

“It was such a great day for democracy,” she said. the day we turned in those petitions.

The much smaller adaptive reuse “is the hoped-for outcome,” Melkonians said.

Not everyone was pleased with the substitute project.

“I thought then and still think it should have been housing,” said Judy Abdo, a former mayor and leader of Santa Monica Forward, which advocates more transit-oriented development.


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