With demolition scheduled to occur within weeks, about 200 people gathered Tuesday night for the last party at the site of the future AERIE condominium complex.
"I'm excited," said Richard Julian, the owner of the property at the corner of Carnation Avenue and Ocean Boulevard. "I hope it turns out to be worth all the effort."
Julian and his wife, Karen, first spotted the property and its views 12 years ago and knew they wanted to live there. Ultimately they envisioned a luxury condominium complex in the style of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, overlooking the Newport Harbor, jetties and the Pacific Ocean.
"We wanted it to look like it was growing out of the bluff," Rick Julian said.
Neighbors, however, complained that the project would be too big, too ugly and would destroy coastal bluffs. The Julians fought for nearly three years to get the project through the Newport Beach Planning Commission and City Council, then finally received Coastal Commission approval in June 2011.
Along the way, the project was reduced in size by one unit to seven units, with a 17% reduction in square feet and a 61% reduction in bluff excavation. The project will be 51,124 square feet and involve excavation of 9,810 cubic yards of coastal bluff.
"It was a matter of time," said Brion Jeannette, AERIE's architect, who attended the party. "It took a little bit longer than we expected, but we're really glad to be here now."
In the end, he said, some neighbors who had opposed the project sent the Julians letters of congratulations.
One vocal opponent moved from the area, he said.
Demolition should take place in three weeks, along with asbestos abatement and other work. Construction won't begin until after Labor Day, as part of an agreement with the city to avoid adding to summertime beach traffic. The project will take 26 months to complete.
Wednesday's gathering was called a groundbreaking party, and the Julians held engraved shovels while they welcomed the crowd, although they never actually used the shovels to break ground.
Guests included Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rosansky, City Council candidate Michael Toerge, former Orange County Register columnist and attorney Frank Mickadeit, family and friends of the Julians, neighbors and former residents of the 14-unit apartment complex.
Ellen Trujillo of Corona del Mar, who wore an "Apt. 1" name tag," lived in the apartment complex for 26 years.
"It needs to be torn down," she said. "It's old and it's run down. But it was a fabulous location. It seems so tiny now, but it was the best."
Corona del Mar resident Kent Moore lived in Apartment 3 from 1970 to 1983.
"It was the greatest party place in the whole area," he said. "We were either on the beach or up here, having a party. It was the greatest bachelor pad. That view when you walked in and saw through the bay windows — that had a lot of effect, if you get my meaning."
AERIE will have 360-degree views, a private beach, boat docks, a shared "Sand Dollar Lounge" with a teppan grill, wok and pizza oven, a pool, private health club, elevators, wine cellars and green construction, according to a handout.
Julian said three of the units are available. Paul Julian, the Julians' son, said the properties are not yet being marketed so no sale price is available, but the units currently are valued at an average of $3,000 per square foot.
Plans to pretty up intersection
Beautification plans for the Corona del Mar entryway at MacArthur Boulevard and East Coast Highway have been on the back burner for more than a year, but that could change with two community meetings that may be scheduled in August, members of the CdM Business Improvement District board said.
The meetings have not been formally scheduled, but B.I.D. board member Jim Walker said he hoped they would be set for Aug. 10 and 19. Business owners and residents, particularly those close to the East Coast Highway-MacArthur Boulevard area, would be encouraged to attend, Walker and others said.
The Business Improvement District had been considering plans for the East Coast Highway-MacArthur Boulevard entrance to Corona del Mar since the early 1990s, and in 2011 a citizens committee created a plan that would have moved the squeeze lane, where three lanes of East Coast Highway merge to two, from Carnation to Acacia. The $1.2 million plan then would have converted the former roadway to expanded sidewalks with landscaping and other features.
But the City Council in January 2013 rejected that proposal, specifically citing residents' concerns with a summertime traffic study.
In May 2013, the City Council discussed a scaled-down version of the plan during a study session. The smaller project would cost about $450,000.
City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner had said a Corona del Mar parking plan needed to be conducted before any improvements were approved. The city's Planning Commission last week discussed the completed parking plan, which the City Council will consider next.
Corona del Mar Today will update readers with information about meetings when they are scheduled.
A Corona del Mar couple has agreed to remove rocks from their property on Little Corona Beach — at an expense of about $100,000 — as they prepare to build a new home in Shore Cliffs.
The rock removal was part of an agreement with the California Coastal Commission, which granted a coastal development permit for the new home at its July meeting.
The project involves demolition of a 3,530 square-foot existing single-family home and replacing it with a 12,364 square-foot, two-level single-family home with a semi-subterranean basement and a 2,621 square-foot subterranean garage. There also will be a 501 square-foot detached guest house on the lot, which is on a coastal bluff above Little Corona Beach.
"In addition, the project consists of grading consisting of 3,260 cubic yards of cut, 190 cubic yards of fill and 3,070 cubic yards of export, and also removal of boulders located at the base of the coastal bluff," a staff report states.
Homeowner Jerrod Blandino said the boulders were placed at the beach in 1982.
"We agreed to remove the rocks, as it is a request/requirement from the Coastal Commission," he said in an email. "There's no structural reason, just someone's opinion of what's pretty or not."
Removal of the rocks, which are located by the beach's tide pools, will cost about $100,000, he said.
Corona del Mar Today appears Sunday in the Daily Pilot. Read daily updates at coronadelmartoday.com.