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Martin A. Brower's Along the Coast

Stag Bar + Kitchen owner Mario Marovic has invested more than $1 million on refurbishment of the establishment, near Newport Pier.

Great Park hills coming alive
Toll Bros., the Pennsylvania-based developer of luxury homes, has acquired another large parcel of land in Orange County, its second in the city of Irvine – this one in the highly desirable Great Park Neighborhoods. While other homebuilders in Irvine and south Orange County must typically purchase a small group of sites from a land developer and then participate with fellow homebuilders in building a new village, Toll Bros. has been able to acquire large parcels and create villages on its own.

Earlier, Toll Bros. acquired a huge chunk of Irvine Co. land at Laguna Canyon Road and Lake Forest Drive near the Irvine Spectrum for development of the 258-home community called Hidden Hills. Hidden Hills’ two neighborhoods, Marbella with 138 homes and Capri with 120, have been selling at a rapid pace, with luxury residences from 4,608 to 5,538 square feet priced from $2.4 million to $3.2 million.

In an earlier large land acquisition, Toll – in partnership with Shea Homes – acquired 373 acres of Baker Ranch in Lake Forest and is in the midst of developing an 1,800-home community there.

Now comes the newest land acquisition – within Great Park Neighborhoods on the site of the former El Toro Marine base in Irvine. Here, FivePoint Communities has been developing homes using the same concept the Irvine Co. and Mission Viejo Co. have used – planning a series of villages and selling home sites in each village to a series of homebuilders.  Thus far, FivePoint has developed Pavilion Park, using eight homebuilders for a total of 726 homes, and then Beacon Park, with 20 homebuilders for a total of 960 homes.
With Lennar Corp. as a partner, Toll has acquired 272 acres of land planned to accommodate 840 homes. The newest village will be called Heritage Hills, located in the only hilly area of the former base north of Irvine Boulevard. Toll and Lennar will build all of the homes.

On the waterfront

“What are those guys going to develop to justify paying $72 million for 3.5 acres of land on Newport Harbor and 4.4 acres across Pacific Coast Highway?” a former Newport Beach mayor asked me incredulously. His question was based on a report that brothers Manouch and Mark Moshayedi had purchased the longtime bayfront site of Ardell Yacht & Ship Brokers and a long-vacant restaurant now occupied by designer boutique A’maree’s along Newport’s so-called Mariner’s Mile.

The brothers have been quoted as answering the ex-mayor’s question: “We have no specific plans. We intend to reach out to the city.”

The 3.5-acre site of Ardell Yacht and the adjacent midcentury architectural gem that once housed the elegant Stuft Shirt and then Cano’s restaurants, was owned by the family of the late Moses Sherman (think Sherman Oaks in Los Angeles and Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona del Mar). The Ardell family plans to close the brokerage and retire the name. The 4.4 acres across Pacific Coast Highway is occupied by two other yacht brokerage firms, all adding to the Mariner’s Mile designation for the strip of West Coast Highway from Dover Drive to the Newport Boulevard arches bridge.

Plans for the key site, which some on the Newport Beach City Council hope will spur visitor-attracting development along the waterfront, could include other properties on Newport Harbor – some adjacent to the acquired site – which the  Moshayedi brothers already own.

Museum out, condos in?
A 24- to 26-story, 100-unit luxury condominium tower could rise in Newport Center on the 2-acre site of the Orange County Museum of Art if plans by the museum and real estate developer Related Cos. are realized.

If Related, a huge New York development firm with its West Coast office in Irvine, gains approval from the city of Newport Beach to develop the condominium project, it would purchase the site from the museum. That would enable the museum, with additional funds to be secured from a capital campaign, to build a dramatic new home in South Coast Metro’s Arts District. The price for the 2-acre site would be negotiated based on the value of the project that can be developed on it.

To be called Museum House, the condominium tower is being designed by noted New York-based Robert A.M. Stern Architects “in an elegant, restrained form which fits into Newport Center,” according to Related California CEO Bill Witte. Early plans show the building angled to San Clemente Drive with a motor court to bring vehicles off the street.

Although Museum House is planned to rise 24 to 26 stories, being a residential building with shallower floors, it would be shorter than the Irvine Co.’s new 21-story 520 Newport Center Drive office tower in Newport Center.

With sufficient financing, the museum would then develop a 55,000-square-foot building with 25,000 square feet of exhibit space designed by Thom Mayne of the Los Angeles architectural firm Morphosis. OCMA CEO Todd Smith said he hopes to bring the final design to the museum board in June, present it to the public in the fall, and open the facility “before the end of the decade.”

Obtaining permission from the city of Newport Beach to build a new tower in Newport Center – as with virtually any new project – will undoubtedly meet with resident concern. Craig Wells, chairman of the OCMA board, has asked museum members to support approval of the proposed condominium tower, saying that members residing in Newport Beach have to understand that a move to Costa Mesa will be in the museum’s best interest.

The Refreshed Stag Bar stays True to Itself
by Lawrence Christon

By his own estimate, Mario Marovic has sunk more than $1 million into refurbishing Newport Beach’s Stag Bar + Kitchen. But it hasn’t been to convert a funky old watering hole into a trendy New Age boite. The investment has gone into making a local institution look almost as used and déclassé as in the days when spittoons lined the floor and proud patrons stood four deep at the long bar.

Marovic proudly takes a visitor through the place. He crouches to show original wood moldings under the 100-foot copper bar – the longest in Orange County, he says. He points out the old gun rack over the bar and, on the opposite wall, animal trophy heads, including an African sheep, which he bagged himself. He’s added banquettes, new bathrooms and a small kitchen that whips up pizza, meatball sliders, wings and seasonal salads.

Times have changed since 1908, when the place opened on McFadden Square, a stone’s throw from the Newport Pier. But the Stag Bar remains a saloon, not the kind of establishment city planners and urban designers normally think of right away when they propose redevelopment schemes, but stubbornly essential in its own way.

Marovic, 43, gets it. He’s been spreading cheer through Orange County in bars and restaurants that include the Dory Deli and Malarky’s Irish Pub in Newport Beach; the Wild Goose Tavern and Pierce Street Annex in Costa Mesa; and 2J’s Lounge in Fullerton.
Casting a wide net would suggest he knows what he’s doing and loves doing it. This wasn’t always the case. As a youngster working for his father at 2J’s, he hated the pub and grub business so much that he vowed he’d never do it again. He went on to earn an undergraduate and master’s degrees at USC. He went to work in Silicon Valley, then joined his sister’s loan business in Newport Beach. But he found the lure of his old/young life unvanquishable.

“I missed the energy, the humanity,” he says. “It’s a positive vibe, a good place to work. I missed the interaction with people. I enjoy making them happy. I realized that you don’t really know what you have until it’s gone.”

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