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Martin A. Brower's Along the Coast

Dan Young

More Newport Coast condos     
Even while Newport Beach residents are raging against the Irvine Co.’s San Joaquin Plaza apartment community – five five-story buildings with 524 apartment units crowding up against San Joaquin Hills Road near Jamboree Road in Newport Center, three men are asking the city for permission to build a six-story, 45-unit condominium project in Newport Center.

Plans have been filed with the city for what Ron Soderling, Tod Ridgeway and Mike Lutton call 150 Newport Center, a $100 million luxury condominium building that would rise on the 1.3-acre site of a car wash owned by the three developers. At a time when local residents are seething about expected traffic from the Irvine Co. apartments, Soderling says the proposed condominiums would generate 75 percent less traffic than the existing car wash.

The developer trio point to their proposed project, on which they would like to begin construction by mid-2017, as a jewel-box addition to Newport Center. And certainly the design, by the architectural firm of MVE & Partners, bears them out.  

Under the city’s general plan, only 100 residential units are still available for development in Newport Center, but pushing on the 150 Newport Center project is Museum House, Bill Witte’s proposed 26-story, 100-unit condominium tower planned for the current site of the Orange County Museum of Art.

We’ll have to wait to see how this all plays out against the new slow-growth Line in the Sand political action committee, which apparently opposes most further development.

Kaleidoscope continues upgrade
Kaleidoscope, the multi-level retail center just off the San Diego Freeway at Crown Valley Parkway in Mission Viejo, opened in 1998 but is still looking for tenants. After several ownerships and management firms, manager Sentinel Development Services sees strong improvement with the facility’s upgrading and orientation toward entertainment, restaurants and lifestyle services.

The 245,000-square-foot complex was conceived by a Beverly Hills developer who saw the concept work in urban areas, but the parking garage and escalators have not appealed to more suburban Orange County.

Big project set for Irvine
While real estate developers in Newport Beach fight for permission to bring new projects online, developers in Irvine – just across the Newport  border – are having a field day. Adding to the mix are Steve Layton and Phil Belling, whose LBA Realty has filed plans with the city for a 9.4-acre mixed-use project just up Jamboree Road at Michelson Drive.

The as-yet-unnamed 423,000-square-foot project would include two five-story office buildings; a six-story, 150-room hotel; a 50,000-square-foot cinema; and 51,000 square feet of retail. The site, which LBA bought in 2014, is the former home of St. John Knits and is catty-corner from LBA’s 105-acre Park Place multi-use complex.

No time frame has yet been set as the development works through Irvine’s approval process.

Bren adviser Moves On     
Hot chatter all over Orange County’s real estate industry concerns the sudden departure of Irvine Co. executive Dan Young, president of the company’s Community Development unit and one of Chairman Donald Bren’s closest advisers.

Of more concern than what happened to Young is the high degree of speculation as to who is now closest to Bren, who personally owns the county’s largest real estate development and management firm. The answer might be the low-image but highly dynamic Ray Wirta, president of the company’s Investment Properties Group. Wirta, along with Bren and Young, made up the company’s Office of the Chairman Management Committee.

Wirta could be called a “triple threat” executive:
1) He’s in charge of all of the Irvine Co.’s office, retail and resort properties in Orange County, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Chicago and New York, while heading the company’s corporate functions; 2) He is chairman of the board of CB Richard Ellis, the world’s largest real estate  brokerage and management firm; and 3) He is chief executive of the Koll Co., a sizeable regional real estate development and management firm. (Bonus: He’s one of the nicest real estate executives around.) Keep an eye on Ray Wirta.

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