As a city known for its stunning coastlines and historical architecture, Santa Barbara is constantly evolving and growing to meet the needs of our thriving community. And if you've been finding it difficult to keep up with all the significant developments taking shape around us, you're certainly not alone. That's why we've put together this blog post to give you a bird's eye view of the transformative changes on the horizon. From exciting commercial projects designed to rejuvenate retail spaces to mixed-use developments that aim to bring more housing to our bustling city, there's a lot happening here. Let's dive into the ten most significant projects that are poised to reshape the architectural and cultural fabric of Santa Barbara.
L.A. developer Runyon, known for Platform in Culver City, is revamping the Las Aves complex across from the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge into The Post, a retail center with many shops, two restaurants, and two smaller food-and-beverage outlets. The company also bought the Montecito Athletic Club and Stella Mare’s buildings; its plans for those remain unknown—and possibly up in the air till it either gets its hands on one or both of the other buildings (Magic Castle Cabaret and the apartments to the north) or gives up.
Platform Santa Barbara
If you were wondering why Runyon isn’t calling the Las Aves project Platform, it’s undoubtedly because the company also plans to construct a new complex—called Platform—at the southeast corner of Garden Street and Highway 101 (currently home to Stoneyard Building Materials). Runyon’s David Fishbein said we can expect “unique independent boutiques and great local chef/restaurateurs. I’m not sure how many tenants we will have at this point but it will likely be similar to The Post given the projects are similar in overall size.” Cearnal Collective is the architect.
The Garden Street Hotel
The Cabrillo Plaza Specific Plan of 1983 included hospitality as a possible use for the lot at 101 Garden Street (at the southwest corner of Yanonali), but when the Wright family’s plan finally went before the city’s Planning Commission in early April, commission members complained about the lack of housing. “If an applicant can’t rely on a specific plan, then what the hell are we asking specific plans for?” said architect Brian Cearnal, whose Cearnal Collective designed the 250-room property (120 standard rooms and 130 extended-stay). As for what’s next, Noozhawk had this: “Rather than an outright denial, the commissioners voted 6-0 to ‘continue’ the project, to give the developers time to study employee housing, do outreach to the neighborhood, and work with existing tenants on the site. Cearnal indicated that any employee housing would have to go on a third story, which would increase the height of the building about 45 feet. The developers plan to return to the commission in about 60 days.”
Developer Neil Dipaola is spearheading the attempt to transform an entire block of the Funk Zone—bordered by Yanonali, Santa Barbara, Mason, and Gray streets—into SOMOfunk, a mixed-use development with 155 apartments and 18,000 square feet of commercial space. The city needs housing, and the Architectural Board of Review was generally in favor when it discussed the matter last July; the project next goes before the Planning Commission.
35 Anacapa Street
The third big mixed-use development in the Funk Zone is at 35 Anacapa Street, south of Mason. The description from when it went back in front of the city’s Architectural Board of Review in March: “The proposed building includes two 6-room small hotels (total of 12 hotel rooms, ±300 square feet each), hotel lobby/amenities/back-of-house, and other commercial services including: corner market/bodega, restaurant, and tasting rooms. A total of two residential manager’s units (±600 square feet each) will be provided for the two hotels.” The architect is DesignARC.
Santa Barbara Waterfront Hotel
Barring any delays from the city, construction is set to begin in the third quarter of this year on the Robert Green Company‘s 86-room resort at E. Cabrillo Boulevard and Calle Cesar Chavez (with back-of-the-house operations at a lot to the north), designed by local architect Robert C. Glazier. Of special note: the roof deck with pool and bar.
410 State Street
The only project on this list that’s actually under construction is the one at 410 State Street, which also fronts E. Gutierrez Street. In August 2020, the Santa Barbara News-Press described it thus: “This new development involves retaining and modifying the approximately 17,150-square-foot building at 410 State St. [Reality Church] and retaining the approximately 6,800 square-foot building at 409 Anacapa St. [Reid’s Appliances], a voluntary lot merger to combine the three parcels, and construction of a new 84-unit, four-story Priority Housing project over the east parking lot” on E. Gutierrez Street. The architect is Cearnal Collective.
710 State Street Hotel
Further up State Street, SIMA is proposing to replace the building currently home to Restoration Hardware (710 State Street); the adjacent building directly behind the Santa Barbara News-Press building (19 E. Ortega Street); the Press Room bar at 15 E. Ortega; and a large parking lot with a 32,799-square-foot, four-story, 66-room hotel including two restaurants. (The buildings at 714-720 State Street are also part of the project but they won’t be demolished.) The design, by Kevin Moore Architect, includes varied facades that give the feel of a village street and a paseo running from State to Ortega. The project sailed through the Historic Landmarks Commission; the Planning Commission is up next.
Santa Barbara Police Department
The Santa Barbara Police Department’s current headquarters on E. Figueroa Street is too small and falling apart, so a new one will be built at the corner of Santa Barbara Street and E. Cota Street. The architect is Cearnal Collective, natch. Here’s the description from its website (which also has more renderings): “The proposed Santa Barbara Police Station consists of a three-story, ±64,000 square-foot office building and a three-story ±84,000 square-foot secure parking structure to accommodate 237 parking spaces. Both structures will have a subterranean basement level below grade. The existing Santa Barbara City police operations, currently located at four separate sites, would be consolidated at the new project site.” P.S. The city hasn’t announced what will happen to the building at 215 E. Figueroa. And the Saturday farmers’ market will move to the intersection of State and Carrillo.
The Neighborhood at State and Hope
The local father-and-son team of Jim Taylor and Matthew Taylor at American Capital Management want to replace the 8.76 acres comprising the Macy’s building at La Cumbre Plaza and the parking lots around it with a mixed-use development called The Neighborhood at State and Hope. Cearnal Collective came up with the plan for 685 apartments (some of which would be affordable and some of which could end up being for seniors), underground parking, and commercial space, including retail. The architecture would be in four styles: traditional Mediterranean, modern Mediterranean, modern Moorish, and contemporary. According to a Noozhawk update in March, the project “exceeds the 60-foot height limit set by Santa Barbara’s city charter and will need to undergo environmental review [….] The Taylors will take the comments made by the city and decide how to move forward before submitting a formal application.” The owners of the Sears parcel at La Cumbre are said to be working on plans for a big mixed-use development, too. (The mall proper has multiple owners and a ground lease, so it’s unlikely to change for a long time.)"
Remember, while these projects are in different stages of development, some may take years to materialize, or may not even come to fruition. Nevertheless, each represents the potential for growth and enhancement in our beloved coastal town.
Torkells, Erik. "The 10 Major New Developments Set to Reshape Santa Barbara" Siteline