By OCInSite Site Admin | November 23, 2011 7:00 AM
By Sherri Cruz
Who says retail development is stagnant? Newport Beach is seeing a flurry of ground-up retail projects and renovations, which stand to energize the city and bolster its credentials as a shopping destination.
Fashion Island is fresh off a $100 million facelift, which enhanced the look of the mall and boosted the overall retail square footage.
Slated to open next year at the gateway to Mariner’s Mile is Mariner’s Pointe, an upscale shopping and dining center: The 19,000-square-foot, two-story center with onsite valet parking is set to be anchored by Winston’s Crown Jewels. “We’re looking at an exciting project that will be the renaissance for Mariner’s Mile,” says former Newport Beach Mayor and developer Tod Ridgeway, owner of Ridgeway Development Company. Laguna Beach-based architect Stoutenborough Inc. designed Mariner’s Pointe to resemble a Mediterranean village. The center is looking to Los Angeles to recruit top-notch restaurant concepts — possibly a sushi house and a chef-driven restaurant, according to Glenn Verdult, who co-owns the property with his sister Eva. Other possible tenants include a luxury spa and salon and an upscale chocolatier.
Mariner’s Pointe, photo courtesy of Stoutenborough Inc.
The 3,500-square-foot Winston’s Crown Jewels will be a grander version of Glenn’s other store, Winston’s Jewelry in Costa Mesa. “It will be kicked up a level as far as the looks,” says Richard Hammond, who will manage the new store. The gems will be bigger and the store will have a wider selection of emeralds and other precious stones to choose from. Jewelry pieces will be priced from $5,000 to $5 million.
Next door to Mariner’s Pointe, well-known NB property owner Russ Fluter spent $200,000 to overhaul an abandoned group of mid-century office buildings. He could’ve torn it down and built a new building, but in a sluggish economy, renovating a building that already had a lot of character was perhaps the best move he could’ve made.
He leased it in two months. The boutique owners that set up shop in the building designated it The Cove. Many of the tenants design what they sell or make it by hand. At Studio Fringe, interior designer Pam Terry sells home décor including throw pillows and ottomans made of burlap coffee sacks.
If it sparkles, Posey Couture has it. Owner Paige Van Rensselaer-Kunkle sells Swarovski crystal costume jewelry and other girly things. At MerMade Designs, artist Merideth Fleener’s home décor includes coral and seashell mirrors, driftwood crosses and vintage signs.
Van Rensselaer-Kunkle and Fleener were first to open their stores at The Cove. Through word of mouth, friends, and friends of friends, opened stores there. “It’s been as good as I could’ve hoped for,” Fluter says. “It filled up quickly and I have a group of people that are happy there.”
On the Balboa Peninsula, spruced up buildings and all-new tenants, many homegrown, have made all the difference at what’s now called The Landing. “We’re very happy with how things have turned out,” says Steve Geary, managing partner of gourmet burger restaurant Crow Burger Kitchen at The Landing. He also owns Crow Bar and Kitchen in Corona del Mar. Geary says the developer made an effort to attract local tenants. “They understood that a neighborhood like that needed local retail.”
Recruiting retailers with a strong local following brings business to the center, says Sean Whiskeman, vice president for Oakland-based Catellus Development Corp., which has an Irvine office. Other local tenants at The Landing: women’s boutique No Rest for Bridget, which has locations in Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach, and Gina’s Pizza, which has several locations in Orange County. “We really wanted to promote the local flavor,” says Whiskeman.
National tenants, such as Chase bank and Chipotle Mexican Grill, are part of the mix too.
The Landing, photo courtesy of Todd Quam
Catellus renovated the center all at once because the prior tenant leases expired on the same day. “We thought we could get in there as quickly as possible to renovate the center as a whole.” The renovation began September 2010. Pavilions grocery store, which moved from Via Lido Plaza, was the first tenant at The Landing. It opened in June.
At Newport Bay Marina, a project that will include retail, office and residential space is slated to be built at the former shipyard site at 2300 Newport Blvd. The plan, proposed by Beverly Hills-based Etco Homes Inc., calls for 15,000 square feet of retail below 21,000 square feet of office space. Plans also include a new marina and a public plaza. City officials say Etco Homes is working to secure financing. Company officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Perhaps the site with the most promise — and complexity—is the Lido Village area, which consists of Lido Marina Village, Via Lido Plaza, the current city hall site and property opposite Via Oporto. In all, Lido Village encompasses about 17 acres.
The city has put forth an aspirational concept plan for Lido Village, which is available online. The city also is drawing up design guidelines for developers and expects to be finished by year-end. “The idea is to put in place basic planning guidelines that will allow property owners to redevelop their properties economically but consistently with each other,” says Newport Beach Mayor Mike Henn. The relevant parties representing the properties are contributing to the guidelines, he says. “We want their input. The city’s not going to redevelop their property, they are.” The hope for Lido Village is to end up with a consistent look and feel that creates a “sense of place.”
But here’s the tricky part: there are multiple land owners, some who live out of the area, and a variety of interests, especially in the Lido Marina Village, a mostly vacant retail area that fronts the marina.
The city has the most control over what gets built at the city hall site— the biggest parcel within Lido Village—because it’s owned by the city. Newport Beach wants to be ready with a plan when city hall moves at the end of 2012 into the new Civic Center site near the library. It envisions the bulk of the current city hall site to be devoted to housing, but what type of housing has not yet been determined. Plans also call for a public plaza, which would connect with Lido Marina Village, and possibly a pedestrian bridge that would link Mariner’s Pointe to Lido Marina Village.
Via Lido Plaza, owned by Dallas-based Fritz Duda Co., is moving ahead with some redevelopment, Henn says. They’re working on getting a new tenant to replace the Pavilions that moved to The Landing. “Supermarkets are among the tenants they are talking to.” The city anticipates that Fritz Duda will make improvements beyond the former Pavilions building, but no plans have been submitted yet.
Lido Marina Village owners aren’t ready to move forward with redevelopment right now, Henn says. New York-based Vornado Realty Trust controls most of Lido Marina Village. Some tenants, including Jon Birer, owner of Charlie’s Locker, own their property. Newport Beach-based Davenport Partners manages Lido Marina Village.
In the future, to be consistent with design guidelines, Lido Marina Village would have ground-floor retail, residential above and perhaps even a small hotel, Henn says. Rebuilt docks and a pedestrian promenade along the water are also part of the plan.
There’s currently a smattering of retail at Lido Marina Village, including Lido Village Books, Le Bistro restaurant and Blackman Limited Jewelers.
Twice a year during the Lido Yacht Expo and the Newport Boat Show, the place is teeming with people, and on Sundays, a farmers market draws a decent crowd, but otherwise, there isn’t enough retail and dining there to entice customers to show up and stick around. The mostly vacant village lacks a vibe.
Lido Yacht Expo
Lido Marina Village tenants say the high vacancy is primarily due to the shifting visions for the village under various owners, punctuated by the recession.
Curl Fitness’ Jill Sperry saw promise at Lido Marina Village. She and business partner Becky Hartman recently opened the 13,000-square-foot workout center in a space that was vacant for 13 years. They signed a seven-year lease. “The area’s incredible,” Sperry says. She hopes the facility will become a popular local gym.
Charlie’s Locker, described by its owner as a “nautical Neiman Marcus,” does well at the village because the store has been there for 35 years. “We’re a destination store,” says owner Jon Birer. “If people are going to spend $1 million on their boat they should have a store that outfits them in the proper way,” he says.
Over the years, he’s seen the area decline. But he’s optimistic. “As far as a piece of property, it’s one of the nicest pieces of property in the world,” he says. “This area needs to be the gem of Newport Beach.”