Major Step in Final Phase of Crystal Cove Cottages Restoration

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Renovation for the final 17 Crystal Cove Cottages was discussed Wednesday during Speak Up Newport.
— Photo by Christopher Trela ©

Crystal Cove Conservancy officials announced a major step forward in the final phase of the cottage restoration project during a community meeting this week.

Laura Davick, Conservancy (formerly the Crystal Cove Alliance) founder, vice president and campaign chair, announced at Speak Up Newport meeting on Wednesday that the Packard Foundation on June 8 approved a low-interest $10 million construction loan for the infrastructure of the project.

“That is huge. I can’t tell you what a huge milestone this is for this project,” Davick said.

However there is still a challenge before the fundraising effort, she continued, they need to raise $5 million before Sept. 1. So far they have raised $1.1 million.

Once raised, they will immediately start work on the infrastructure. They expect to go out to bid next week.

The estimated cost of the entire project is $35 million, Davick said. More than half of that cost is just to prepare the site, she added.

This is probably one of the most challenging projects to do on the California coast, she said. They have to stabilize the bluffs, create service paths for public access, sewer systems, and more.

The group has restored all but 17 of the 46 historic cottages. The final phase is called the “Heritage Legacy Project for California.”

“This completes the final vision for this park,” Davick said. “This is the final piece of Crystal Cove.”

Councilwoman Diane Dixon introduced Davick, saying the park and cottages are a beautiful addition to the city. The restoration project will “make them even better,” she added.

The restoration is a challenge because of the age of the cottages, their condition, and the current building standards. It’s going to take time and money,  Dixon said.

She encouraged residents to support and treasure the park.

Some of the Crystal Cove cottages to be restored.
— Photo courtesy Crystal Cove Conservancy ©

“It has provided unique access to the beachfront, this beautiful, pristine part of our oceanfront,” Dixon said.

Davick called Crystal Cove one of her “favorite places on the planet.”

Crystal Cove has a special place in Davick’s heart. Four generations of her family have visited CC over the years, and her parents met at the coastal spot in 1940. They had cottage #2 from 1960 until 2001.

It was a private community for many years, and in 1979 the land became a state park, she explained.

“We’re so fortunate that it became a state park and that it’s still open for all of us to enjoy,” she said.

In 1999, it was “destined” to become a luxury resort through a 60-year contract with a developer.

“I was concerned we were going to lose Crystal Cove forever,” Davick said. “I knew that Crystal Cove was going to change and I just desperately wanting to make sure that did not happen.”

She formed the nonprofit Alliance to Rescue Crystal Cove and the plan for the luxury resort stopped in 2001. Soon after, they began management of the cottages through a public-private partnership with California State Parks.

The nonprofit is “dedicated to leveraging the unique cultural, historical, and natural resources of a restored and protected Crystal Cove State Park as an outdoor laboratory and classroom to cultivate our planet’s next generation of environmental stewards.”

Donations are invested directly back into the park in an effort to create a “sustainable future” for Crystal Cove, Davick said.

They are committed to providing affordable rental options, she noted.

“People of average, ordinary income can come experience this,” Davick said.

The park sees about 2 million visitors and 24,000 overnight stays annually.

In the first phase 22 cottages were restored, which cost a total of approximately $21 million,  she noted. In the next phase, seven additional cottages were restored, at a cost of about $6.7 million.

The past few years they have been working with the California Coastal Commission on getting the necessary permits for the project.

The project also includes creating public access to the site, supporting new and expanded educational programs, and protecting the natural environment.

They are expecting a five year construction timeline for the entire project.

“It will create a jewel for the entire state parks system, for the benefit of this community,” Davick said.

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