Museum’s Future Hinges on Condo Tower

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An artist rendering of Museum House. — Courtesy Related California Urban Housing LLC ©
An artist rendering of Museum House.
— Courtesy Related California Urban Housing LLC ©

The Orange County Museum of Art needs Newport Beach to approve the construction of a 25-story condominium tower at its San Clemente Drive campus to fulfill its mission and remain fiscally sustainable, according to Todd Smith, the museum’s CEO.

The museum’s leadership wants to move the art institution to a plot next to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, providing more foot traffic because of its proximity to performing arts venues and freeways. The relocation would be made possible by the sale of the current building to real estate developers Related California.

“We have an opportunity with an expanded building to live up to the mission that we have built for ourselves,” said Smith.

But if last week’s planning commission meeting is any indication, Smith and his supporters may have an uphill battle in winning Newport Beach residents’ support for their project, named Museum House. The meeting was so packed that guests who couldn’t find a seat lined up against the walls of the City Council Chambers.

Residents have already been living with the construction of the Irvine Company’s six-story apartments at Villas Fashion Island on San Joaquin Hills Road near Jamboree Road.

“I’m extremely concerned by the traffic that going to be generated by the new apartments and this new building,” said Newport Beach resident Chip Long.

A big part of the discussion is whether the 100-unit condominium building meets the threshold for a “Greenlight Initiative” vote, which requires a vote of the people on major general plan amendments. This includes any project that adds 100 vehicle trips during the peak rush hours and over 100 new dwelling units.

Kim Brandt, community development director for Newport Beach, said the city will do a thorough analysis of the project’s potential impact before making a decision on whether a vote must be held.

“At this point we are not ready to make any definitive conclusions regarding this project as to whether or not it will require a Greenlight vote,” she said. “As I said in my opening comments, we are still going through the analysis of this project. We have another project in Newport Center so there are a lot of variables that are in play.”

Due to its small size, the art museum is currently restricted in its operations because it can only display one exhibition at a time despite its collection of 20th and 21st century California art.

In order to switch out exhibitions, the museum can be closed to visitors for several weeks at a time.

Moving to Costa Mesa would not only allow the museum to add enough space to rotate exhibitions without having to close down, but also provide amenities like food service, retail opportunities and a gathering space for events.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. It is nothing short of stunning that that salient fact that “the Orange County Museum of Art needs Newport Beach to approve the construction of a 25-story condominium tower at its San Clemente Drive campus to fulfill its mission and remain fiscally sustainable” has just now come into play!

    How breathtakingly arrogant! Not to mention, self-servingly convenient.

    In the interest of total disclosure, I have to admit that the new, proposed 300′ tower would be severely detrimental to our current and beautiful view – but that issue is not our singular, nor most relevant concern in this matter – Newport’s well being and future is.

    A vast majority of those we have discussed this potential behemoth with – are in collective agreement as to why a large, multi-storied Museum is not a more attractive proposition? Think NYC’s MOMA – or look a tad North to LACMA. Or, is the general population of Newport Beach, many of which, like us, are invested, lifelong residents on a partial and or permanent basis blithely unaware that it is the primary motivating factor of the current Planning Commission and City Council to convert every single square inch of vacant land into a recklessly inspired residential or worse, commercial endeavor? While my family and our neighbors and friends remain proactive, forward-leaning, intelligent and more-to-the-point responsible, engaged residents – the suddenness of this projects’ initial announcement, coupled with the (dare I say) immediate ‘demand’ for a vote – allowing other dubious proposed projects recently unveiled for the Newport Center (not to mention elsewhere within the City’s parameters) to proceed at break-neck speed, is serious cause for the public’s concern.

    Whatever happened to the theory of a process that would include transparency, thoughtful and carefully considered thought for both the Museum as well as the entire Newport Beach citizenry – inclusive of, but not limited to the artistically inclined? One would hope, the Council can and will do better. At the very least, Newport Beach deserves that, and so much more.

  2. CORRECTION: in my passionate response to the article, I somehow neglected to emphasize and to correctly state: “A vast majority of those we have discussed this potential behemoth with – are in collective agreement as to why a large, multi-storied Museum ON THE CURRENT SITE is not a more attractive proposition?