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Newport planners hear pitches for senior living and condo projects

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A rendering depicts a Vivante Senior Living project that would reach six stories on the former site of the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

The Newport Beach Planning Commission had its first public review Thursday night of proposals for a luxury senior living facility near Fashion Island and a condominium complex near Bonita Canyon Sports Park.

The commission looked at the plans for Vivante Senior Living at the former site of the Orange County Museum of Art and Newport House, a 21-unit condo community on undeveloped land at 4302 Ford Road.

The commission did not vote on either proposal, and discussions will resume later in the spring.

Vivante would replace the vacant OCMA structures at 850-856 San Clemente Drive with a six-story senior housing development consisting of 90 assisted-living dwellings and a 27-bed memory care unit. Amenities would include a dog park, dining rooms, a full-service bar, yoga and fitness rooms, an indoor pool, a two-lane bowling alley and lounge, a golf simulator, a salon, an art room, a theater and a library.

Cory Alder, president of Costa Mesa-based developer Nexus Development Corp., said Vivante’s 185-bed Vivante on the Coast facility in Costa Mesa has been full for the past three years and has a waiting list.

The Newport Beach project would consist of 54 one-bedroom and 36 two-bedroom assisted-living units, including four penthouses. Memory care patients would be grouped mostly in two-bedroom units, with some studios.

The assisted-living units would start at about 800 square feet.

Nexus Chief Executive Curt Olson said local senior citizens may be unwilling to leave their large longtime homes, but in staying have become isolated and depressed. The two-bedroom Vivante units, though smaller, would give them room, he said.

The former OCMA property was to be the site of the 25-story Museum House luxury condominium tower before the City Council revoked its development approvals in 2017 when faced with enough petition signatures from opponents to force a referendum. The city settled two lawsuits last year involving the museum and local activists who opposed OCMA’s attempted land sale to would-be Museum House developer Related California. The museum sold the land to Nexus.

The Planning Commission would need to approve a general plan amendment to change the land-use category for the property from private institutions to mixed-use horizontal and a variance to exceed the 65-foot height limit, topping out at about 78 feet.

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A rendering shows Newport House, a 21-unit, three-story condominium complex proposed for 4302 Ford Road, near Bonita Canyon Sports Park in Newport Beach.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

Newport House, a three-story condo complex on an acre near the southeast corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Bonita Canyon Drive, would include two-, three- and four-bedroom units ranging from about 1,400 to 2,300 square feet. The land is next to a telephone switching station and is currently owned by Pacific Bell.

Newport House’s name and architecture are inspired by the local Lido House hotel, with a Nantucket aesthetic that includes two lighthouse-style features. Amenities would include a pool and courtyard, a rooftop deck and 55 below-ground parking spaces.

Ray Lawler, a former Newport Beach planning commissioner who is representing the project’s Houston-based developer, Hines, said he sees an opportunity to transform the view of “a pretty unattractive utility building on an underutilized site” with a building that blends with the neighborhood.

The proposal would require a general plan amendment to change the land-use category from public facilities to multi-unit residential and an allowance for an architectural element to reach 37 feet — four feet over the limit.