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Barnes & Noble Returns to The Promenade
By Jorge Casuso
September 18, 2023 -- Five years after shutting down, Barnes & Noble will return to the Promenade, marking "a pivotal moment" in the revitalization of the struggling pedestrian strip, Downtown officials announced Monday.
The national bookseller had occupied a three-floor space for 22 years before becoming the last major bookseller to fall victim to soaring rents and internet competition in early 2018.
Barnes & Noble's departure, "coupled with the impacts of the pandemic, mirrored the challenges faced by many retail centers worldwide in the wake of shifting consumer demand and the pandemic’s economic repercussions,” said Andrew Thomas, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.
“Its return is a signal to our community that the essence of Third Street remains viable and inviting as ever," Thomas said.
Barnes & Noble joins some 30 "noteworthy new businesses" that have opened Downtown over the past year after Promenade vacancy rates soared to some 40 percent before the pandemic, DTSM officials said.
Among the Promenade's new stores and restaurants are JOHN REED Fitness, Blenders, Wilson, Herschel Supply Company, Aldo Shoes, Swish Studio, Bella + Canvas, Ugo Trattoria and the planned third location of HQ Gastropub in a multi-level space with a rooftop dining deck.
The Promenade has also attracted "experiential offerings that provide memorable interactions for visitors" and are revitalizing shuttered spaces, Downtown officials said.
The new offerings include the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Mutant Mayhem Experience, the "highly successful" World of Barbie and BTS Exhibition Proof popup experiences, and Pickle Pop, an immersive indoor pickleball club.
"We're entering a new chapter where a diverse array of businesses across fitness, retail and hospitality, converge to reinvigorate this iconic street in a way that not only honors its past but propels it into a remarkable future," Thomas said in a statement Monday.
The ground-level occupancy rate has increased by 10 percent since 2021 to 77.6 percent, according to the latest rental data, and recent zoning changes are expected to provide a further boost, officials said.
The changes include "the anticipated creation of an arts and entertainment district, the expansion of alcohol permits and the enabling of commercial use for outdoor rooftop spaces on structures owned by the City."
Downtown officials view the return of Barnes & Noble as signaling both the evolution and revival of the Promenade.
The closure of the bookseller, which was shuttering branches nationwide as Amazon made major inroads into the market, came two years after Hennessey + Ingalls left the space it had occupied near the Promenade for 52 years.
Borders Books and Music -- a staple of the Promenade for more than a decade -- had shut down in 2009, while Midnight Special, the city’s largest independent bookseller, was forced off the popular strip five ears earlier by rising rents.
The return of Barnes & Noble, Downtown officials said, shows the Promenade is "building off of its rich history, while driving forward with adaptability and innovation."
For more information about Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. and its initiatives, visit DowntownSM.com.
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