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Segerstrom Center drops appeal of master plan for new Orange County Museum of Art location

Segerstrom Center drops appeal of master plan for new Orange County Museum of Art location
A rendering shows an outdoor staircase joining the Orange County Museum of Art’s planned building in Costa Mesa with the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Julianne and George Argyros Plaza. (Courtesy of Morphosis Architects)

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts has dropped its appeal challenging approval of a master plan for development of the new Orange County Museum of Art location on the center’s Costa Mesa campus, clearing the way for the long-discussed project to move forward.

The Costa Mesa City Council had been slated to take up the issue Tuesday, but Jennifer Turner, the Segerstrom Center’s executive vice president and managing director, sent an email to the city wanting “to withdraw our appeal on this matter.”

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Turner’s message March 14 didn’t provide a specific reason for the about-face, but a statement from the center Wednesday elaborated somewhat:

“Following the original appeal, the center and the museum continued discussions and successfully addressed the few remaining operational details. OCMA is clear to resume working on its new site, and we look forward to their imminent groundbreaking and welcoming them as an important partner on the Segerstrom Center campus.”

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The appeal withdrawal means the Costa Mesa Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the OCMA master plan on Jan. 14 is final.

“We are pleased that the center has withdrawn its appeal,” museum director and Chief Executive Todd Smith said in an email Wednesday.

The center and OCMA, he added, “have been involved in ongoing discussions about the project throughout the entire design process,” though the plan itself “is unchanged from the one approved.”

“The museum looks forward to working with the center, our neighbors around the center and the city of Costa Mesa in advance of the commencement of construction,” Smith said.

OCMA’s master plan outlines development of a 53,875-square-foot museum— more than doubling the exhibit capacity of its former home at 850 San Clemente Drive in Newport Beach, which closed in June after 41 years.

The new structure — designed by architect Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis — is to be built next to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and include permanent and special exhibit space, a glass-fronted exhibition corridor facing a walkway along Avenue of the Arts, a cafe, a museum shop and a landscaped outdoor terrace.

The master plan also calls for a 10,000-square-foot expansion at some point in the future.

Then-Segerstrom Center President Terrence Dwyer appealed the Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council on Jan. 18, citing concerns about site access, parking, outdoor activity space, building design and use and whether the museum would be appropriately integrated with existing facilities.

Dwyer abruptly left his position Feb. 22 after 12 years on the job. He later told TimesOC that it was “the right time to leave professionally, for my family, and to take a step forward that will make it easier to pursue whatever is the next exciting opportunity that awaits.”

In that interview, he said the new OCMA would be “a fantastic addition” to the center.

OCMA officials have said they expect to open the new facility in 2021. The museum is currently operating at an interim space at South Coast Plaza Village, 1661 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana.

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