Newport Beach Councilman Mike Henn, whose district includes Balboa Village, talked with Indy writer Richard Simon about ExplorOCean.
Q: How do you feel it will improve our community?
A: This project will be a tremendous contribution to the arts and cultural offering in our City, as a nationally acclaimed facility for the study of the ocean. It will also be a boon to our educational system, as many of its programs will benefit kids of all ages in our schools. And, lastly it will be a principal anchor of activity in the Balboa Village and a major contributor to the revitalization of the village by bringing steady, year round visitation oriented to kids and families.
Q: Do you think it will be a draw for visitors from both inside and outside Newport?
A: I expect that it will be a significant draw regionally, and perhaps nationally, and certainly a major draw for citizens of Newport.
Q: Is the city helping to fund ExplorOcean, and if so, how?
A: The City is not directly funding ExplorOcean, as it is intended to be a 100 percent privately funded institution. However, the City acquired the Balboa Market property some years ago to provide for redevelopment flexibility in Balboa Village through availability of it for increased parking capacity. Certainly, the ExplorOcean project could benefit greatly from that flexibility. In addition, the City is developing an arts and cultural master plan, and I can picture some amount of funding under that plan related to programs and offerings of ExplorOcean.
Q: Has the city had any input as to the direction ExplorOcean has taken?
A: This is a privately funded and managed project. The City’s involvement has been to facilitate the development of the project, but not provide direction for it.
Q: Did the city have to approve any plans for the waterfront transformation?
A: The City will have to approve the overall plan and building plans for the project, just like any other project in the City.
Q: Is anybody from the City Council involved with ExplorOcean in an advisory capacity?
A: Not in any official way. Naturally, for a project of this magnitude, I have tried to maintain close and contemporaneous understanding of it. Occasionally, I have also provided direction as to the most effective way for ExplorOcean to work with the City as to issues requiring City approval.
Q: Any other comments you wish to make.
A: Overall, I think this is a tremendously positive project for the City as a whole and my district in particular. I look forward to supporting its development in any way I can, both on or off Council (I am termed out in November).