Martin Brower's Along the Coast
Testing a foot-only Forest Avenue
Cities across the nation have experimented with closing shop-lined streets to vehicles to create a pedestrian-friendly environment resembling a retail mall. Some have worked, some have not. The city of Huntington Beach has gone back and forth with the idea of closing Main Street for that purpose.
Now Laguna Beach will give the concept a try. Everyone loves Laguna’s lovely Forest Avenue with its quaint shops and restaurants. Occasionally, one can even find a parking spot along the always-busy thoroughfare. To give the concept of a pedestrian-friendly avenue a try, the City Council voted to temporarily close Forest to vehicular traffic from Coast Highway to Glenneyre Street during the hectic tourist months of August and September.
The result, the city feels, will be a “walkable downtown,” and most of Forest Avenue’s merchants agree. The downside: closing the avenue will result in the loss of 48 parking spaces, making parking in Laguna even more difficult.
Working with the planning firm MIG of Berkeley, the city plans to add interest to the area by creating parklets along the way with areas for seating, planting and sculptures.
Should the experiment work, a permanent closing is possible.
Buyer grabs planned community
Long-time readers of this column will remember references to Pacifica San Juan, a spectacular 194-acre residential development planned for a hillside in San Juan Capistrano, just off the San Diego Freeway at Camino Las Rambles. The 416-home project actually began, 98 homes were built, but then came the big recession and everything halted.
Now Pacifica San Juan is ready to move ahead once again. Lehman Brothers Holdings, which declared bankruptcy during the recession, has sold Pacifica San Juan to residential developer Taylor Morrison Home Corp. and two investment firms. Taylor Morrison is the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based firm that recently purchased the huge Marblehead Coastal project in San Juan Capistrano from Lehman Brothers.
With 98 homes already built at Pacifica San Juan, Taylor Morrison has 318 to go. The firm says it will continue the master-planned community as originally conceived, with six types of homes ranging from attached condominiums to ocean-view estates. The master plan includes a 7.3-acre school site.
How important is the site, with its views over San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point? Taylor Morrison calls the acquisition, the price of which was not announced, “one of the most significant real estate transactions in California this year.”
Putting on the Ritz again?
Can the Ritz restaurant live again? When the late restaurateur Hans Prager moved his Ritz restaurant from the Newport Pier area of Newport Beach to Newport Center in 1982, the Ritz became a place special unto itself. The magnificent dining room, the waitresses with tuxedo jackets and matching shorts, the cocktail lounge with its paintings, the continental cuisine – all created an elegance that was appropriate to the era. Only a few restaurants in Orange County could match the feeling – yes, the late Geril Muller’s Chez Cary in Orange and then his Ambrosia in Newport Beach, but when the Chez and Ambrosia closed, the Ritz was all that was left.
Somehow, the Ritz was not the same after Prager died, but it remained a special place until February 2014, when its lease was not renewed. The Ritz promised it would return, but a site was hard to find. Now not only has the site been found, the site and the planned renovations have been given the approval of the city of Newport Beach.
The site is on Mariner’s Mile, the location of the closed Chart House, a complex of buildings and marinas owned by GP’s Landing LLC. Plans call for 187 seats indoors and 44 outdoors on a terrace. The city has also permitted non-amplified live entertainment. The new Ritz will open in August. But will the new Ritz, now owned by Grill Concepts, provide the old-school elegance of the old one? Should it?
Car wash to condominium?
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” goes the saying. Newport Center Anacapa Associates of Newport Beach purchased the 1.26-acre former Beacon Bay car wash in Newport Center with hopes of developing the site into a boutique hotel. The concept of rezoning the site for a hotel fell by the wayside with the recent defeat of the city of Newport Beach’s general plan amendment, Proposition Y.
Not to be outdone, Newport Center Anacapa Associates, which in the meantime remodeled and is operating the renamed Newport Beach Car Wash, is now seeking rezoning
of the site for a residential condominium project. The proposed development would be a seven-story building with 49 units, many with ocean views.
This would be one of only four residential condominium projects in Newport Center, the mixed-use development with Fashion Island shopping center at its heart, offering occupants the opportunity to walk to Newport Center’s shops, restaurants, cinemas, financial and medical services, and office buildings.
Only two residential condominium projects are a reality in Newport Center. One is the Granville, 67 units built as apartments in 1970 when Newport Center was in its infancy and later converted to condominiums. The other is the under-construction Meridian, adjacent to the Newport Beach
Only one other residential condominium projects is on the horizon: a development planned by Related California for the current site of the Orange County Museum of Art, which plans to move to Segerstrom Center for the Arts across from South Coast Plaza.
Retail down, apartments up
The Lakes Pavilion, that quaint retail center in South Coast Metro adjacent to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, is about to come down to make room for – you guessed it: apartments. The 23,000-square-foot retail center has been sold to Legacy Partners of Foster City, which will develop a five-story, 250-unit luxury apartment complex on the two-acre site at Anton Boulevard and Avenue of the Arts. The $100 million project, to be called 580 Anton, is scheduled to enter construction later this year. At one time, a pair of 25-story condominium towers were planned for that site.