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Martin A. Brower's Along the Coast

News from our coastal communities

rendering-star-themed-art
An artist's rendering of Disneyland's “Star Wars”-themed land.

Irvine’s homebuilding boom
Beacon Park, the newest residential development by FivePoint Communities in Irvine on the former El Toro Marine Corps base, is now open for sales and it is big, big, big. There are 47 models in 15 collections of homes by 10 homebuilders. And yes, this is the city of Irvine, long known for cookie-cutter Mediterranean homes, but the homes here vary from Cape Cod and Craftsman to midcentury and Santa Barbara motifs.

Beacon Park will have 1,029 homes, and FivePoint CEO Emile Haddad expects them to sell out in as little as 15 months. He bases this on FivePoint’s first community in what is called the Great Park Neighborhoods, Pavilion Park, whose 726 homes opened in the fall of 2013 and sold out in 15 months. “There is a lot of pent-up demand,” he said.

Unlike Pavilion Park, where homes were all detached, Beacon Park has four attached condominium projects, some with three stories and some with roof-top gardens. Hadded explained that these bring down the prices, which begin in the mid-$600,000s and go to the high $1 millions. Sizes range from 1,465 to 4,600 square feet.

Located at Irvine Avenue east of Sand Canyon Drive, Beacon Park is adjacent to the Irvine Great Park. To move development of the Great Park on a faster scale, FivePoint is developing a portion of the park into what Haddad calls “the largest sports complex in the United States,” with opening set for the end of 2016 or early 2017. Additionally, the Irvine Unified School District’s K-8 Beacon Park school will open in August 2016 as will the new Portola High School, just east of Beacon Park. Residents will have use of the 5-acre Beacon Park near the center of the community, and Haddad is proud of the 180 trees saved from the Marine base and planted throughout the new community.

Haddad pointed out that Great Park Neighborhoods stress quality, education and jobs and pointed to the firm’s sale of land to Broadcom for its new office campus and stated that his firm will begin a retail, commercial and hotel mixed-use complex in the area by the fall of 2016.

AC Hotel coming to OC
Orange County will get a distinctive new hotel – one of the first of its type in the nation – with start of construction later this year on the AC Hotel by Marriott in Irvine’s Park Place complex at the 405 and Jamboree Road.

The 175-room AC Hotel is being developed by Woodbine Development of Dallas, whose creed is “We create spaces where people want to be.” The architect is HKS’ Irvine office.
Marriott International formed a joint venture with European hotel chain AC in 2011, and the first AC Hotel in the United States opened in New Orleans in 2013. A second AC has opened in Miami Beach. AC Hotels have a European flair, which the company calls “modern, upscale and urban-inspired.” With a 14-month construction schedule, the AC Hotel, Irvine, could be open by late 2016.

The 105-acre Park Place is a mixed-use complex under development by LBA Realty of Irvine. Known by old-timers as the former Fluor Corp. headquarters, Park Place has 2.6 million square feet of office space, high-rise residential condominiums and low-rise apartments, and 165,000 square feet of retail and dining facilities. LBA is planning a 200,000- to 300,000-square-foot office tower to break ground in the next 12 to 18 months.

Disney’s next act
When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in Anaheim in 1955, he famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed.” And 60 years later, yet another major re-configuration of Disneyland has been announced. This addition has been eagerly anticipated ever since Disney acquired the “Star Wars” concepts and characters in two purchases in 2009 and 2012.      

Everyone thought they knew where the Disney Resort would build Disneyland’s long-awaited “Star Wars”-themed area – obviously it would be on the three parcels of land, totaling 14.7-acres, for which Disney paid $100 million just across Harbor Boulevard from Disney California Adventure.

But in a complete surprise, Disney CEO Robert Iger announced that a “Star Wars”-themed area will be developed on a 14-acre site on the northwest corner of Disneyland, replacing Big Thunder Ranch and acres of backstage area.  Apparently “Star Wars” followers will not be disappointed. Ground will be broken in 2017 for what Iger claims will “transport guests to a whole new planet.”

So what about the acreage across Harbor Boulevard? We’ll have to wait and see. After all, Disneyland will never be completed.

Seeking a balance for Balboa
Many Orange County cities have parts that need upgrading – and affluent Newport Beach is no different. One such area is the section of the Balboa Peninsula between Palm and A streets, considered by some “the heart and soul of the city” because of its 110-year history beginning with the construction of the picturesque Balboa Pavilion, once the terminus of the Pacific Electric red car line.

But what to do about the aging area? The goal is to spur growth without sacrificing the area’s charm. In 2012 the city created the Balboa Village Master Plan and appointed an advisory committee. The city created incentives for business owners to improve facades and provided financing for landscape redevelopment and signs. But that is not enough.  Parking is a problem, business owner Ralph Rodheim is pushing for a change in Balboa Village’s name to Old Town Balboa, and there a trolley to serve visitors being considered.

Included in Balboa Village is the historic Fun Zone, with its arcades, ice cream stands and boat rental facilities. On the plus side is ExplorOcean, the maritime museum that purchased 2 acres in the area in 2005 and has plans for a significant visitor-attracting complex. On the minus side was an attempt to convert the historic 1928 Balboa Theater to a performing arts center, with a private foundation and with the help of the city, which was finally determined to be a non-starter.

Newly elected Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon, who represents the Balboa area and who has called a number of meetings on the matter, said, “It’s all about finding the right balance.”

Jail expansion is on
All signs point to the expansion of the James A. Musick Facility, the minimum-security Orange County jail located between Irvine and Lake Forest near the former El Toro Marine Corps base. Twenty years have passed since the proposal to expand the facility to house an eventual 7,500 inmates. Today, Musick has 1,322 beds but only 750 inmates. The expansion would be in two phases: construction will begin in 2016 on 512 additional beds and the next phase would add 384 beds.

Once-strong legal opposition by the cities of Irvine and Lake Forest appears to be weakening. In 2012, Lake Forest signed an agreement with the county limiting beds to 3,100. According to the agreement, beds have to be in eight-person dormitories with no two-person cells, and some medium-security inmates can be housed, but maximum security inmates can be housed only in unusual circumstances.

An appeal by the city of Irvine against the first phase of expansion was turned down last June, but Irvine is still challenging the second phase.

Few cities want a jail, even a minimum-security facility, at their doorstep. But the Musick facility will definitely get 512 new beds, with 384 additional beds to be determined. n




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