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Martin A. Brower's Along the Coast

Newport Harbor Yacht Club

Well-known Dining options change, expand
Among the flurry of news out of the dining sector is the opening of Harvest, the restaurant at the Ranch at Laguna Beach, a sprawling hotel complex nestled into a canyon and including the Ben Brown nine-hole golf course. Harvest (below) has a relaxed coastal ranch design and serves contemporary California cuisine created by executive chef Charles Imbelli, who uses produce from the Ranch’s garden.    

Also notable is the change in management – and what a change it is – at Ritz Prime Seafood on West Coast Highway’s Mariner’s Mile. Opened a year ago by the Daily Grill chain, the Ritz suffered from a difficult-to-approach menu and extremely high pricing, with the result that diners failed to return. The restaurant, with its dramatic interiors and Newport Harbor views, is now managed by Open Bar Hospitality and its managing partner, Ben Sabouri. Sabouri, with extensive restaurant experience from Las Vegas’ finest venues, has brought in a new staff and introduced an exciting menu with significantly lower prices. Definitely worth a new try.

In other restaurant news, Marché Moderne, the French bistro frequently referred to by Southern California restaurant writers as one of the finest restaurants in Orange County, is moving. Marché’s founder and executive chef, Florent Marneau, has decided to relocate far away – to the Crystal Cove Shopping Center in Newport Coast – after nearly 10 years on the third level of South Coast Plaza. The new venue, with opening set for spring, is on the former site of Tamarind of London. A number of restaurants have failed in this location, but Marché should do very well.

Yacht Club gets an elegant facelift
Change does not come speedily when an institution is as old as the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, established in 1916. Members moved into the current clubhouse in 1919. Over the intervening years, the clubhouse – the scene of numerous memories by generations of members – has understandably aged.
Not hasty to make changes, the club’s 770 members undertook a 12-year study before coming up with plans to demolish the 97-year-old clubhouse and in its place erect a 23,163-square-foot, two-story building. Included will be a formal dining room with glass walls overlooking Newport Bay, a Pirate’s Den Bar and a boardroom.  
The design by MVE Architects will retain the “coastal style” of the historic clubhouse and will reflect the club’s traditions and location on the Balboa Peninsula. Members want the clubhouse to be “elegant without being ostentatious.”

New apartment complexes
Scores of new apartment complexes have emerged over the past several years throughout the Irvine Business Complex. But except for the Central Park West complex and several high-rise condominiums, there has been an absence of condos.

To enter this market, real estate developer Nature City has received approval from the city to develop a seven-story, 120-unit condominium project on a 1.98-acre site on McGaw Avenue near Jamboree Road and across from the Diamond Jamboree retail center.

Called Blue Bay, the condo’s construction is planned to begin at the end of the year. The units will be wrapped around a parking structure. Completion is set for end of 2019.

OC expected to outpace national economy   
Continued growth, slow but steady, is forecast for the Orange County economy during 2017 and extending into 2018, according to several economists, including Cal State Fullerton’s Anil Puri. Puri sees the country continuing a period of slow growth; Orange County will continue to outdo the nation.

Puri says job growth here, one of the major engines of economic well-being, increased by 2.6 percent during 2016, and he forecasts another 2.3 percent growth during 2017 and 2.2 percent during 2018, with unemployment holding at 4 percent. Employment sectors fueling the growth include construction, professional/business, education/health care and leisure/hospitality.

Puri looks for “continual steady growth in payrolls, income and home prices.” Housing prices
are forecast to increase 6 percent during 2017, passing the median price of $735,000 set in 2007.

Adding to Orange County’s economic growth is foreign investment in commercial real estate, pegged at $2.1 billion during the previous 24 months by brokers Jones Lang LaSalle. Investment in industrial properties is led by Singapore with $505.2 million and Canada with $491.8 million. The Chinese lead in hotel investment with $831.5 million, including purchases of the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, the Montage in Laguna Beach and the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Garden Grove.


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