Master plan for new Orange County Museum of Art location gets OK from Costa Mesa Planning Commission

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 Orange County Museum of Art cleared a major hurdle Monday in its long-running quest for a new home when Costa Mesa planning commissioners unanimously approved its master plan to build at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

The 53,875-square-foot museum will be the latest addition to the Segerstrom Center, which includes other well-established cultural and performance spaces such as the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Samueli Theater and Judy Morr Theater.

The OCMA building — designed by architect Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis — will 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 structure will more than double the exhibit capacity that OCMA, an acclaimed venue for modern and contemporary art, had at its former home at 850 San Clemente Drive in Newport Beach, which closed in June after 41 years. The master plan also calls for a 10,000-square-foot expansion sometime in the future.

“I think to have the visual arts represented in such a dynamic way really kind of puts the exclamation point on the city’s more-than-credible reputation as a world-class arts center,” said Planning Commission Vice Chairman Byron de Arakal. “I’m very proud to support this project and I’m looking forward to it becoming a reality very soon.”

Officials have said they expect to open the new facility in 2021. Until then, the museum is operating at an interim space at South Coast Plaza Village in Santa Ana.

OCMA is “committed to enhancing Costa Mesa’s designation as the ‘City of the Arts’ by constructing a world-class home that sets a new standard for architecture in the region while complementing the existing aesthetics of the [Segerstrom] center and the area,” museum director and Chief Executive Todd Smith said, referencing the city’s official motto.

It will do so, he said, “by serving as the premier venue for the visual arts of the 20th and 21st centuries, by providing access to the wonders and potential of our visual world, by educating and entertaining students of all ages and by adding to the richness of life in Costa Mesa and the region.”

The commission’s vote on the master plan is final unless appealed to the City Council within seven days.

Commissioner Carla Navarro Woods called the museum “the perfect addition to an already perfect space.”

“I’m super excited about this project,” she said. “What a great way to start the new year for Costa Mesa.”

OCMA’s move has been in the works for more than a decade. Museum officials announced their intent to relocate in June 2008, saying they had received legal title to a donated 1.64-acre parcel at the Segerstrom Center.

Smith and Terry Dwyer, president of the Segerstrom Center, said Monday that the two agencies are putting the finishing touches on an official land-transfer agreement.

In 2016, OCMA agreed to sell its Newport Beach property to Related California, a developer that proposed building a 25-story, 100-unit condominium tower called Museum House on the site. Proceeds from the sale would have helped pay the museum’s relocation costs, which have been estimated at $50 million.

However, the Museum House project drew a public challenge in the form of a referendum petition, prompting the Newport Beach City Council to revoke its approval of the plan in February 2017.

OCMA later agreed to sell the site and an adjoining parcel to Vivante Newport Center LLC, a subsidiary of Nexus Development Corp.

Though the museum’s Costa Mesa location is still years from opening, Monday’s commission meeting provided a preview of sorts in the form of a scaled-down replica that sat on a table in front of the commissioners.

“It’s nice seeing the model, but, man, it’s going to be great someday to see the building there and be able to go with my family to experience art in Costa Mesa,” said commission Chairman Stephan Andranian.