Implementing many key elements of this charrette report will require enabling actions by the City of Newport Beach. In sharp contrast to other areas of the City that were master-planned by the Irvine Company, Mariners’ Mile appears to have developed organically over many decades. This has given the harbor-oriented district a certain charm and authenticity in places, but the general appearance from Coast Highway is of a visually discordant jumble of buildings that hides an attractive and interesting waterfront from view. The inland side of Coast Highway is not much better. The district also suffers from many features that discourage pedestrian functionality and enjoyment, as well as prevent bicycle safety. In many ways, Mariners’ Mile provides a utility function for various commercial services and firms that need access to either the waterfront or the highway, but it is not an elegant, beautiful place to visit with good accessibility to its most prominent feature.
To correct these deficiencies will require the City to step-up and take decisive action, starting with the commissioning of this timely urban planning charrette. Strategic interventions by the City will allow Mariners’ Mile to achieve its tremendous potential as an interesting, aesthetically attractive, multifaceted amenity for locals and visitors. Elevating Mariners’ Mile to this higher level will improve quality of life and raise real estate values within the district and in adjacent neighborhoods.
There are a number of powerful inhibitors to major new investment within Mariners’ Mile. Our report proposes strategic interventions to some of these factors:
Highly Fractured Ownership Structure
Challenging Site (very shallow in places)
Lack of Sufficient Parking for Intensification
Severe (35 Feet/2-3 Stories) Height Limitation
Lack of a Predictable Investment Environment (no quality-ensuring Master Plan, Design Guidelines, and multi-stage Design Review Process to protect new investments)
Challenging Entitlement Environment
– Coastal Commission Approval Required
– Public Vote Required for Many Scenarios
– Nearby Property Owners Have Been Known to Oppose Development
Physical improvements to Mariners’ Mile can be separated into two categories, infrastructure improvements and new buildings. Proposed infrastructure improvements and the predictability-fostering master plan, design guidelines, and multi-stage design review process are ways the City can catalyze private investment (new buildings).
Coast Highway (restriping and median construction)
Avon Street Extension, Intersection (construction)
Pedestrian Crossing (construction)
Maritime Icon Signage for Branding/Wayfinding” (construction)
Bike Path on Cliff (construction)
Parking Structures (4 – construction)
– West (Sterling BMW property (optional))
– Central (McCune property)
– Newport Theatre Arts Center incl. Park extension (City property)
– East (Ardell property)
Waterfront Boardwalk (construction)
Piers with Public Docks and Distinctive Individual Pavilions (4 – construction)
– Riverside Avenue
– Tustin Avenue
– Pedestrian Crossing
– Avon Street Extension
Waterfront Plaza View Corridors (4 – construction)
– Riverside Ave. (Billy’s redevelopment, plaza construction)
– Tustin Ave. (Pizza Nova relocation, plaza construction)
– Pedestrian Crossing (Jack Shrimp relocation, plaza construction)
– Avon St. Extension (plaza construction)
Hotels – 3 Hotels/484 New Keys
(excludes Holiday Inn’s existing 83)
(est. $668,000/yr. TOT)
– 5-star on Waterfront – Integrating A’maree’s. (Ensure iconic A’maree’s is adaptively reused and NOT demolished.)
– 4-star Inland – McCune or Ardell site
– 3-star – Holiday Inn Express Redevelopment
Retail-90,000 s.f./Office-30,000 s.f. (est. $1.15 million in sales tax; 345 jobs)
– Avon Street as OC’s Rodeo Drive?
Residential – 200 units
– Studios and 1-/2-bedrooms
Collectively, the proposed new construction is relatively modest in scope relative to the importance, value, and prominence of Mariners’ Mile. As such, these new buildings should be considered minimum investments in a famous but tired-looking and under-improved waterfront district that is ripe for significant upgrading and intensification. A’maree’s is a unique signature building and local treasure with fantastic adaptive reuse potential, and it deserves designation as a historic landmark to ensure its preservation.
The four proposed piers incorporating public-access docks are an important new feature of the waterfront, and the piers should contain vista-terminating pavilions or gazebos at the end of each one. These pavilions should feature strong verticality and be architecturally distinctive, with each one different from the next (similar in concept to the beach pavilions at Seaside). A juried competition would be an exciting way to attract top architectural talent and to elevate the visibility of the new Mariners’ Mile.
The possibility of evolving Avon Street into a high-end retail street comparable in some ways to Rodeo Drive (in Beverly Hills) or to Worth Avenue (in Palm Beach, Florida) is particularly intriguing. By some measures, Orange County is a moreaffluent county than either Los Angeles or Palm Beach Counties, with Newport Beach being at the epicenter of this county’s wealth. Top-tier fashion retailers generally prefer to be located on an authentic urban street rather than in a confining, enclosed mall (witness the current transformation of the Miami Design District). Spearheading such a project will require a highly focused strategy that capitalizes on some excellent fundamentals that exist in the Mariners’ Mile area.
SEQUENCE / PHASING
To facilitate the new private investment (new buildings) that will transform Mariners’ Mile, the City of Newport Beach will need to create and adopt several enabling items. A Master Plan and associated Design Guidelines that integrate a FormBased Code will provide a road map for the district’s evolution and will ensure that the new and revised elements address pedestrian functionality/enjoyment and bicycle safety in a much better balance with car mobility than in the past. Certain critical form-based elements (e.g., a requirement that most village buildings have zero setback from the sidewalk, etc.) should be made mandatory, or at a minimum, strongly encouraged via robust incentives. This will ensure that all new development in Mariners’ Village is urban in form, thereby eventually expanding the already urban north side of Avon Street (between Riverside and Tustin) into an immersive, Village-wide waterfront urban experience that is relatively unique in Orange County and that supports the greatest amount of pedestrian activity.
To attract the highest-quality new investment, the City should adopt a special Design Review Process for Mariners’ Mile. Such a process should feature a rigorous multi-stage format to ensure predictability and transparency, to protect prior investments, and to prevent developer bait-and-switch or under-delivering, etc. The highest-quality mixed-use developers in the country prefer cities that have such standards and process because they know that their significant investment will be protected. Newport Beach is a unique, special place and should insist on the best.
Some of the proposed improvements will be expensive, and the optimal infrastructure financing mechanism(s) must be identified and set-up. The recently approved Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts are very intriguing and worth exploring. To ensure that the many proposed sub-projects are properly coordinated and implemented to the highest standards, the City needs to address project management and coordination, both within the municipal staff and via outside consultants/contractors.
City Creation and Adoption
– Master Plan
– Design Guidelines/Regulations
Purpose: Ensure Urbanism/Walkability and Improved Aesthetics with All New Construction/Major Redevelopment
Form-Based Code with Mandatory Elements and/or Strong Incentives:
Design Review Process for New and Redevelopment Projects
Infrastructure Financing Mechanism(s); Some to Consider:
– Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District – New Tool
– Community Facilities District
– Vehicle Parking District
– Business Improvement District
– Direct Municipal Investment
– Municipal Employee vs. Consultant: to manage implementation steps
Infrastructure Improvements Construction
– Coast Highway – Restripe and construct median
– Avon Street – Extend (includes new intersection at Coast Highway)
– Pedestrian Crossing
– Maritime Icon Signage
– Bike Path on Cliff
– Newport Theatre Arts Center Parking Structure and Rooftop Park
– Waterfront Boardwalk
– Piers with Public Docks, Unique Pavilions, and View Corridors (4)
Riverside Avenue – Billy’s Redevelopment – Waterfront Plaza