Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone has emerged as the coolest regeneration or urban renewal of our storied City by the Sea. This small area, squeezed between Highway 101 and the waterfront east of State Street, is now the “go-to spot” for fun and cultural experiences — for locals and visitors alike.
Cruise ships seemingly arrive weekly, with loads of tourists eager to explore the back streets of our city. Visitors are no longer content to just stroll State Street; they’re attracted to the off-State discoveries of new restaurants, wine bars, galleries, breweries and other “Funky” retail experiences. What are you doing on Saturday night? “Hitting the funk zone” is the local’s response. It is happening.
With the Funk Zone close to “built-out”, the question is, “Where is next?” My view is that Haley Street, a long neglected area known for seedy bars, flop houses and other activities of dubious distinction will soon gentrify. Not yuppie gentrification, more like the Abbot Kinney-sort of organic transformation.
Over the past five years, that notable area of Venice, similar in size and condition to Haley Street, has emerged as one of Los Angeles’ most-visited local street scenes. Haley Street looks just like Abbot Kinney did five years ago.
There are signs that Haley has begun this metamorphosis. The infamous biker bar Las Conchas has been repurposed as retail and restaurant space, with a juice bar already signed up and various eateries vying for the turn-key restaurant opportunity. “The Mill” has taken over the old stone and tile yard in the 400 block of East Haley Street, and is transforming this significant corner location with new shops and a winery looking at the soon to be refurnished location. Sounds a lot like the Funk Zone to me!
This is just what Santa Barbara needs. No longer the home of the “newly wed and nearly dead,” our city benefits from this organic growth and transformation, providing new experiences tailored to the changing tastes of our rapidly evolving community. Our technology sector is booming, creating the high-paying jobs that resemble that bohemian City by the Bay — San Francisco. This is fun to watch, and even more interesting for the savvy commercial real estate investor looking for a smart play with creativity required. Haley Street. Watch this space!