A modern version of quaint slated to be built on Marine Avenue

The 1936 building located at 224 Marine Ave., Balboa Island.
The 1936 building located at 224 Marine Ave. on Balboa Island is scheduled for demolition to make room for a trendy outdoor dining establishment, Arc, owned by Newport Beach Mayor Noah Blom and his wife, Marin.
(Susan Hoffman)

A 1936 cottage-style building at 224 Marine Ave. on Balboa Island will be torn down to make way for a new outdoor dining establishment called Arc, following a unanimous decision by the Newport Beach Planning Commission earlier this month.

“I’m really excited,” said Marin Howarth Blom, who currently owns Arc Butcher & Baker, Cannery Village and Arc Food & Libations, Costa Mesa with her husband, the current mayor of Newport Beach, Noah Blom.

“This will be great for the island because it’s really different from what’s there,” she said.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said her husband, who has been working on the project for three years. “We’re seeing something that needs to be fixed and re-investing in Balboa Island.”

The proposed 999-square-foot dining space with 34 seats will have a setback toward the rear of the property with a two-story space designed exclusively for outdoor dining.

The project will remove and replace a building that is nearing the end of its economic life, according to city officials. The dilapidated condition of the building presented obstacles to necessary renovations, including the requirement to retrofit it to be ADA compliant. City project planner Ben Zdeba said the proposed work will be the first complete demolition and renovation of an existing site that he knows of on Marine Avenue.

Marin and Newport Beach Mayor Noah Blom, husband and wife partners of Arc Butcher & Baker.
Marin and Newport Beach Mayor Noah Blom, husband and wife partners of the Cannery Village location of Arc Butcher & Baker, Newport Beach, with outdoor dining similar to the new Balboa Island location opening by end of the year.
(Susan Hoffman)

According to Simone Jurjis, the city’s community development director, there isn’t a designated historical preservation district protecting a list of structures such as original cottages. There are, however, currently two historic significant properties on the national register, 203 Marine Ave., formerly Jolly Roger, currently Wilma’s Patio and 323 Marine Ave., which served as the original firehouse and is currently home to the retailer Blu Canoe.

During the Jan. 5 public hearing for Arc, the outdoor dining concept raised concerns about the potential for noise from a few island residents, some whom live in homes that border the alley behind the restaurant.

To allay those concerns, Marin Blom said it’s her intent to “protect residents as much as possible from sound and why we built a two-story blockade for sound with a firewall on either side. The dining area is protected by three sides of walls, the only area that’s open faces Marine. The lower level is completely covered and there is a covered section on the second story deck.”

In keeping with the quaint cottage feeling of the existing structure, the plans include a garden-like setting framing a front porch entry. Blom said she wants to make walking down Marine Avenue a more inviting experience.

“Highlighting the patio is a different style of atmosphere that brings a sense of community,” she said. “We want to reinvigorate the island and for people to enjoy outdoor dining.”

Three residents who attended the public hearing expressed concerns about the Planning Commission supporting the parking waiver requested for the Arc project. Sheri Drewry, owner of Wilma’s Patio, suggested the parking problem be addressed in the way of having something in place to move people around before bringing more employees and patrons onto the island.

“Due to the age of the development and the smaller lot sizes, most of the properties on Marine Avenue do not currently provide that required parking,” explained Zdeba, the city planner.

The Bloms have a plan for employee off-island parking in the way of subsidized bus passes, gift cards, meals, quarterly bonuses and on-site lockers.”

Marin Blom said many of her current employees are residents of Balboa Village and ride their bikes to work. “These employees plan to take the ferry across and ride bikes, as they would like to be transferred to the new location on Balboa Island when [the new Arc] opens.”

Naz Koyoumjian of Alex’s Fashion Center, a few doors down from the project, was enthusiastic about the proposed changes to the site.

“I look at it as a plus,” Koyoumjian said. “It can attract business for all of the merchants on Balboa Island. “We’ve always had issues with parking ... since the mid ’70s. Having a new restaurant will breathe a little life into the island.”

The existing 1936 cottage with a wood-burning fireplace has housed many businesses over the years and was once served a dual purpose, as a home and retail space to a shopkeeper. Several decades ago, Wee Jack and Jill was a children’s clothing store occupying a tiny front portion of the property’s living quarters. Whenever a customer would enter the front door, the woman who operated the shop would appear from behind a curtained partition to assist.

Interior shot of 224 Marine Ave. on Balboa Island with items such as towels and pillows for sale.
The building at 224 Marine Ave. on Balboa Island with a wood-burning fireplace has been a home and several businesses since it was built in 1936. It’s slated for demolition to become Arc restaurant.
(Susan Hoffman)

During the 1980s, island resident Beverly Mirecki ran a quirky store there called Seven Seas, where pink Roger Rabbit figures were displayed in the front window. Among the collection of off-beat items were war-related materials turned into art objects like a picture frame and lamps made from spent bullets, an airplane made from cola cans, old dolls, masks, and assorted trinkets.

In 1989, the cottage once again became a children’s clothing store, Balboa Island Kids Clothing. Four years later, a home decorating store, Balboa Porch took over, followed by a series of women’s clothing stores and a nail salon. Currently a women’s BoHo clothing store, Daisy Lane, occupies the site.

Once final building approval is complete during the next three months and construction begins, the restaurant is slated to be finished before the end of the year.

“Knowing his other restaurants, it will be a great addition to the island,” said Stacy Pomeroy, owner of Sur La Mer directly across the street.

Bill Thomas, who lives at 227 Grand Canal, behind the restaurant, said he was OK with the proposal. “I’ve got the Chinese restaurant right over here and it doesn’t bother me,” Thomas said. “The whole island does better with a vibrant restaurant. There’s a lotta noise in this area, it’s kind of a busy area, but I want what’s best for the island.”

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