Council to take up proposal for 25-story condo complex in Newport Center

The Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday will consider a 25-story luxury condominium tower that’s slated to replace the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Center.

Development company Related California LLC’s proposal for the 100-unit, 295-foot-tall Museum House building would require demolition of the art museum, which has occupied the 2-acre site at 850 San Clemente Drive since 1978.

Museum officials have said they realized about a decade ago that they had outgrown their space in Newport Center, and recently the organization announced plans for a new building in Costa Mesa near the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Related California has entered an agreement to eventually buy the museum site, which would help fund the museum’s move, officials say.

“Related is committed to making Museum House a world-class residential project befitting of the luxury brand that is Fashion Island,” Related Chairman Bill Witte wrote in a letter to the City Council, referring to the upscale shopping “island” in the Newport Center. “The project addresses an underserved market that is in great need of quality residences within walking distance of amenities that Fashion Island offers.”

The Planning Commission in October unanimously voted to approve the development, pointing to what commissioners called its high-quality design and a demand for more housing near Fashion Island.

During the hearing, commissioners praised architect Robert A.M. Stern’s design for the building, which they said would fit seamlessly with Newport Center’s style. The exterior would consist of limestone and precast concrete with bronze features and large windows. The building would taper as it rises.

For Museum House to keep moving forward, the City Council will have to affirm the Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve a general plan amendment changing the property’s land use from private institutional to multi-unit residential, with a limit of 100 units.

The tower’s 100 condominiums would consist of 54 two-bedroom units with three bathrooms and 46 three-bedroom units with four bathrooms. Each unit would have a private balcony.

The development proposal calls for the condos to vary from 1,800 to 6,000 square feet and be priced from $2 million to $4 million.

Museum House also would contain a common area with a media room, library, viewing deck and concierge. Its second level would have additional common space, including a terrace with a garden and barbecue grills, a fitness and spa area, a pool and an outdoor kitchen. A pet spa and a wine cellar also are planned.

The company wants to include 200 resident and 50 guest parking spaces. Valet parking would be provided onsite.

Commissioners agreed with city staff that the land-use change would further the city’s goal — outlined in its general plan — of providing opportunities for residents to live close to jobs, retail and entertainment in Newport Center.

However, some residents have taken issue with the project’s height and raised concerns about more residences bringing increased traffic to what they said is an already congested area.

“I would like our city to stop all this new development and revert back to what made made Newport so great, a small easygoing beach city,” resident Ryan Long wrote in a letter to the City Council. “We are becoming Santa Monica and starting to inherit all the issues and problems that come with overdevelopment.”

Tuesday’s council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 100 Civic Center Drive.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN