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Martin A. Brower's Along the Coast

Local community news

Chef Noah Blom and his wife Marin Howarth

New sculptures debut
Ten sculptures – the result of a competition that elicited 81 entries – have been added to the 14-acre Newport Beach Civic Center Sculpture Garden on Avocado Avenue and San Miguel Drive in Newport Center. The sculptures, screened by a three-person arts jury and the Newport Beach Arts Commission and approved by the City Council, cover a broad range of forms and were selected based on artistic merit, durability, practicality of installation and appropriateness to the site.

But none of the 10 new sculptures is permanent. All have been installed for two years – due to be removed in summer 2017. The new sculptures overlap the first 10, which will be removed in 2016.

Rather than reading a list of the new sculptures and their artists, go see them for yourself. Winding paths, extending along bridges which go over ravines, are punctuated with benches and picnic tables. Each sculpture has an identifying plaque with the name of the piece, the name of the sculptor and the materials used, and an app can be downloaded with the sculptor’s voice describing the work.

Big crowd for new homes
More than 10,000 people descended on south Orange County’s Rancho Mission Viejo for the opening weekend of the new village of Esencia, viewing 12 neighborhoods with 42 model homes by seven homebuilders. Esencia, now open for sale, is the second village developed on the 23,000-acre Rancho Mission Viejo. The first village – essentially sold out – is called Sendero.  

Covering a west-facing ridgeline near Antonio Parkway and Ortega Highway, Esencia homes range from the high $400,000s to the low $1 millions, and are 1,340 to 3,765 square feet.

Designed as what Rancho Mission Viejo calls an “inter-generational village,” Esencia contains the second neighborhood called Gavilan, essentially single-story homes for 55-plus residents. Unlike the first Gavilan neighborhood in the village of Sendero, which grouped all of the 55-plus homes together behind gates, Gavilan homes in Esencia have no gates and are located in four areas throughout the village.

The 890-acre Esencia eventually will include 2,800 single-family homes and apartments in 35 neighborhoods, including 12 neighborhoods of Gavilan homes.

Esencia amenities, in addition to trails, parks and pools, include The Canyon House and The Hilltop Club for socializing; Escencia Farm, where vegetables are grown; and The Outlook for 55-plus residents. Future amenities include a K-8 school set to open in fall 2018 and 50 acres of retail and service facilities.

A Hotel Freshens Up
Laughter rained through Orange County in the early 1970s when the Segerstrom family announced its plans for a 17-story, 400-room hotel to open in 1975 in the open fields across Bristol Street from South Coast Plaza. A hotel in the middle of nowhere?

Today, the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel finds itself across a bridge from the nation’s leading retail center, adjacent to Orange County’s Arts District – including the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, South Coast Repertory Theatre and the future Orange County Museum of Art – and in the midst of a half-dozen office towers.

Now, under the direction of general manager Mike Hall, the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel has undergone a major renovation, including replacing all the hard and soft goods in the 394 guest rooms and 17 suites and installing what every guest desires – terrific showers.
After 40 years, with its always-busy 35,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space and its terrace pool, the Westin has taken its place as one of Orange County’s leading hotels. Today no one is laughing.

The Outlet is In
Orange County retail shoppers will get an early Christmas present on November 12 with the opening of the Outlets at San Clemente, a new 325,000-square-foot ocean-facing outlet mall. The location is on the ocean side of Interstate 5 between Avenida Vista Hermosa and Avenida Pico, adjacent to the under-construction Sea Summit at Marblehead residential community.

More than 70 merchants, including Nike, H&M, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Cole Hahn and Tilly’s will fill the center’s first phase. Dining venues initially include Ruby’s Diner, Panera Bread and Starbucks, with 12 others – including four ocean-view white tablecloth restaurants – planned.

Outlet mall specialist Craig Realty Group developed the center on a 52-acre site originally purchased in 2006, overcoming a number of delaying obstacles before moving ahead. Craig Realty’s outlet portfolio includes the popular Cabazon Outlets off the I-10 outside Palm Springs and the Citadel Outlets off the I-5 south of downtown Los Angeles.

The San Clemente open-air mall, designed as a Spanish village with boldly detailed architecture including tile roofs and 350 archways, courtyards and promenades, includes such amenities as a VIP lounge by interior designer Bree Cox for members of the mall’s VIP Loyalty Program.

Valet parking is offered in addition to a 1,167-vehicle parking structure.

The Outlets at San Clemente is opening approximately 70 percent occupied, with additional shops and restaurants planned to open throughout 2016. A future phase, bringing total square footage to more than 500,000, would include another 50 shops and a boutique hotel.

$40 million clubhouse on the way
Just about everyone driving along Pacific Coast Highway between MacArthur Boulevard and Jamboree Road wonders about the steel framing rising into the air in front of the Newport Beach County Club golf course. The steel framing will turn into a clubhouse replacing the original clubhouse in what was once called the Irvine Coast Country Club, which opened in 1954.

But Pacific Hospitality Group, which manages the facility, has plans to convert the longtime golf club into a full-scale country club. The $40 million clubhouse will enclose 60,000 square feet, including a 4,000-square-foot ballroom with space for up to 300 diners. The two-story clubhouse will have ocean and golf course views, terraces, and enhanced food and beverage venues in two grills.

With the goal of attracting younger professionals and families as members, the new facility will include a resort-style swimming pool and a fitness center. Pacific Hospitality looks to attract the broader community by providing a lavish venue for social events.  An opening date during 2016 has not yet been set.

The Arc Continues - by Nancy Luna

Chef Noah Blöm and his wife, Marin Howarth, are expanding with two concepts set to open in December at the foodie enclave of South Coast Collection in Costa Mesa. They are taking over a 2,000-square-foot retail space next to Arc, their restaurant known for its oven-to-table, fire-roasted dishes for Restaurant Marin, a modern diner, and The Guild, an exclusive dining club.

On the decision to open two restaurants, instead of expanding:
Arc’s chef’s counter and booths surround an open kitchen. If expanded “we take the show away,” Blöm says.

On Restaurant Marin:
The modern diner represents a contrast to Arc, where lunch service can take “a long time,” Howarth says. Marin’s menu will be seafood-focused, plus breakfast all day, classic desserts, pies and crumbles.

On The Guild:
The reservation-only experience pays homage to a 19th century “gentleman’s club” with membership fees for sponsors.

On the fees:
Six memberships of $15,000 each buy the 30-seat restaurant’s six tables. On top of that, there’s a $1,000 annual fee. That entitles the member to ownership of the table, name on the table and access to reserve that table. Nonmembers can make a reservation.

On the Guild’s old-fashioned menu:
There’s no tasting or prix fixe menu. Expect classic dishes at dinner like lobster thermidor, oysters Rockefeller, shrimp cocktail, fillets, lamb chops, Waldorf salad. Price points are $40 to $50 for main entrees like steaks and chops.

:: South Coast Collection, 3321 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 949.500.5561

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