Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. With a new season comes new hope, new opportunities and a renewed sense of purpose for public space managers like ourselves.
In Santa Monica, California, where we have the pleasure of fostering community and ensuring economic vitality, we saw over the holiday weekend people from all walks of life take to our streets, dine at our restaurants and shop in our stores. It was just like old times.
And I’m not speaking of 2019. We saw a significant increase in the number of people having fun on our world-famous Third Street Promenade, an increase above 2019 numbers. This has been the trend over the past few months, at least on Saturdays and Sundays, and during evening hours thanks to expanded outdoor dining and more people being vaccinated.
With hotel occupancy still hovering around 50 percent, we can only assume that these folks were coming from neighboring communities. People are embracing the staycation and day trips, whereas they may have traveled farther afield pre-covid.
We embrace this shift, for however long it lasts. We’re fortunate to have a beautiful beach at our doorstep, world-class restaurants and shops, and a celebrated farmers market. But even if your downtown isn’t seaside, we all have wonderful attributes that we are, and always have been, celebrating. It seems people are rediscovering us, and we welcome it.
Welcoming back our locals and those who live nearby will be critical over the coming months, and perhaps longer, as we see more companies embracing new ways of working. While office occupancy is the sector that is lagging behind, recent news articles are projecting a shift to more flexible, but still in-person work environments. This is good news, indeed.
While some are betting against us, I see great things ahead for downtowns. Yes, we have seen people flocking to the ‘burbs, but that creates opportunities for others to find more affordable housing options in our downtowns. Innovative start-ups can also now find great lease rates and lay down roots instead of having to pack up and move once they grow too large and can no longer find office space they can afford.
We will help lead the resurgence.