New name, new life? Laguna center’s new operators have high hopes for the Hive


A commercial center tucked between the Sawdust and Art-A-Fair properties in Laguna Beach is in the midst of a revitalization effort.

A group is working to rebrand the Festival Center at 805-859 Laguna Canyon Road into a bustling creative hub.

The endeavor is starting with a new name: the Hive.

When complete and full of tenants, the Hive could become a new cultural and creative area for a section of Laguna officially known as the Civic Art District, boosters say.

Laguna Beach businessman Mohammad “Mo” Honarkar acquired the site and the adjacent Art-A-Fair/Tivoli Too property in November.

The Hive is now managed by the Laguna Beach Co., whose communications arm, Laguna Creative Ventures, is handling the area’s development future.

“Our goal has always been to create an ecosystem within the Laguna arts district, a place where the creative class can build a sense of community utilizing all mediums of art,” Hasty Honarkar, Laguna Creative Ventures’ creative director and Mo Honarkar’s daughter, said in a statement. “We want students, locals and visitors to have a space where they can come together and create something new that continues the legacy of the original Laguna Beach art colony. We want everyone to experience something true to Laguna’s artist heritage while ushering in the next generation of Laguna visionaries.”

The Hive is a roughly 1-acre center with about 10 tenant spaces. It may even contain new student housing for the Laguna College of Art + Design, said Mark Orgill, Laguna Creative Ventures’ president of strategy and development. A parking lot could be transformed with pop-up shops, he added.

Orgill said he’s been thinking about this project for 20 years.

The Hive is currently home to an LCAD satellite office and Kitchen in the Canyon, a restaurant that opened about two years ago.

Laguna Beach Beer Co. is working on opening a 2,500-square-foot tasting room and barrel aging facility in the center by summer. The establishment will feature two patio spaces, communal tables, beer on tap and growlers.

Company partner and co-founder Mike Lombardo said his corner of the Hive has been vacant for years. “This was a largely neglected area of town,” he said.

Opening Laguna Beach Beer Co. there will help bring the center new life, Lombardo said.

“That was part of the excitement of being here,” he added.

The site was first developed in the 1960s. It was originally known as the Bartlett Center before being sold to Gary Sauter in 1989. He renamed it the Festival Center due to its proximity to the Sawdust, Art-A-Fair and Festival of Arts properties.

Last month, the Hive, with partners Seven-degrees and Montana Colors, officially kicked off the “Summer of Color.” The event, funded by the Honarkars and curated by Torrey Cook and Ben Rubin, will include new murals. So far, seven artists have been confirmed: Okuda, Brett Crawford, Faith47, Casey O’Connell, James Thistlethwaite, Beau Stanton and Chad Hasegawa. More artists and murals are planned, organizers said.

BRADLEY ZINT is a contributor to Times Community News.