Lido Marina Village subject of study

Editor's note: This corrects the name of Richard's Market.

NEWPORT BEACH — The land has been home to reverends, magicians, booksellers, Elks and city bureaucrats. Now, a group of Newport Beach property owners wants to see if they should all coexist, or if they can find a better mix.

Two private landlords and the city are planning a comprehensive study of the area that encompasses the current City Hall site and Lido Marina Village. They're looking for a unified land plan to revive the 17 acres of long-dormant retail and office space.

"I see the possibility of a dramatically improved gateway to the Peninsula," said Councilman Michael Henn, who represents the area encompassing the properties. "Those three major property owners can work together to have a cohesive and integrated design."

Vornado Realty Trust, which owns Lido Marina Village and some nearby buildings, and the Fritz Duda Company, owner of the Via Lido Plaza retail center, have tentatively agreed to commission a study with the city, according to Henn. Representatives for Vornado and Duda could be reached for comment Monday.

As the city builds its new civic center near Fashion Island, the current City Hall parcel has become a subject of speculation. Some have called for a public park, while others believe the city should sell the land to a private developer or help develop senior housing on the site. Now, its future may be tied to the larger area's plans.

The land generally forms a triangle from the Newport Boulevard bridge by Coast Highway to the St. James Anglican Church at 32nd Street, and to the City Hall at the intersection of 32nd Street and Newport Boulevard. It includes the Newport Harbor Elks Lodge, a fire station and the Pavilions-anchored shopping center.

The area bustled more than 20 years ago, when a magic club was one of its major tenants and the nearby restaurants, shops and offices were full. And long before that, one of the first major grocery stores in Newport Beach, Richard's Market, was open at the present-day site of Pavilions.

Since then, the retail and office space has taken a steady dive, both in terms of financial performance, and more recently physical appearance.

"Times change, and peoples' preferences change," said city Planning Director David Lepo.

Lepo said he would like the study to consider making the bayfront more accessible to pedestrians and to reconsider the circulation and traffic patterns. The bayfront area along the present-day Lido Marina Village was rezoned in the 2006 General Plan update to include a mix of residential and retail uses.

The City Council is anticipated to take up the proposed study during its July 27 regular meeting, Henn said.

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