The Colorado Esplanade was conceived by the City of Santa Monica as a vital urban-design element that conveys the spirit of the city. A three-block-long linear plaza along Colorado Boulevard between the new light-rail station on Fourth Street and the historic Santa Monica Pier, the project (which began for PWP in 2011) is not only intended to deliver pedestrians coming from the light-rail to the coast, but also to connect downtown Santa Monica in the north with Santa Monica’s Civic Center district in the south, across the freeway. Thus, the Colorado Esplanade is a multimodal thoroughfare that connects thousands of people to all corners of Santa Monica every day.
Using only basic materials, the design for the Colorado Esplanade creates a shared public-space for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and buses. All users of the Esplanade are contained between two rows of trees that are planted at the outer edges of the space, a planted allée that focuses the view on the historic Santa Monica Pier sign (the symbolic end of Route 66). The trees—as well as string lights and their support poles—frame the entire zone and connect the north and south sides of the street. Custom rippled-concrete unit pavers elevate the pedestrian zone and create an identity to the walk that is recognizable the moment visitors step onto it. The Esplanade is also home to Santa Monica’s first bicycle track that allows cyclists to travel in both directions. The bicycle track is separated from the vehicular lanes by a three-foot-wide and six-inch-high curb; the pedestrian walkway is separated from the bicycle track by a sidewalk curb with small seating elements.
The new Gateway Triangle creates a framed entry plaza for parks at the City Hall and the Civic Auditorium. The plant palette throughout the project is strong and simple with bold street trees as well as mass plantings that offer color and fragrance.