Farewell to market view

NEWPORT BEACH — Built in 1938, demolished in fall 2010. Here for 72 years, gone in two days.

With the help of a wrecking company, the city of Newport Beach has taken a back hoe to the Balboa Village Market in the 600 block of East Balboa Boulevard, between Palm and Main streets.

The edifice wasn't quite a historical landmark. It wasn't on any sort of register.

But with its old red and blue sign, along with its picturesque mural of a tubular wave, painted in 1995, it struck a nostalgic chord among some folks here.

"I guess it's true — you can't fight City Hall," said Elaine McGrew, a bartender from the Class of '47, a watering hole across the street that offered a view of the mural.

"I'm mad," she added, jokingly. "There goes our view. We used to charge for that view."

The city now plans to build a 32-spot parking lot in the market's place, and possibly a two-story parking garage, according to Newport Beach Councilman Mike Henn, who represents the Balboa Village area.

Although the market had been vacant since 2006, a few residents gathered Tuesday morning to bear witness to the demolition as an ever so slight marine layer permeated the air.

Among them was Bob St. John, who used to run the market for five years before the tax bills started getting too heavy.

"We had some fun times in there," said St. John as a gigantic claw from the back hoe methodically made mince meat of the building. "It was a gathering place, just like anything else around here. It was inevitable that it was going to be torn down."

Mark Fricker, a resident of Balboa since 1987, managed to grab a brick from the ruins for the sake of posterity, he said.

"It's something I'll aways have," Fricker said as he sat on his beach cruiser and watched the demolition.

Initially, the city was thinking about trying to save the mural, but decided not to because it was painted on the brick façade, said city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan.

"We couldn't peel it off," she said.

The city now is in the midst of trying to figure out how to make more money to pay off the lot upon which the market once sat. The city purchased it from Leo Gugasian, a real estate investor, for $3.5 million in January 2009.

The Newport Beach City Council is thinking about forming a Balboa Village Parking Management District and installing more than 200 meters along the side streets and a stretch of East Bay Avenue and East Balboa Boulevard.

The purpose would be to generate more revenues than the $2.6 million to $2.9 million it brings in each year from parking-related items, City Manager Dave Kiff has said.

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