Officials broke ground this week for a project on the peninsula that has been long in the works.
More than 100 people attended the Marina Park groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, which took place on-site at 18th Street and W. Balboa Boulevard as the sun set.
“This is a project of tremendous importance,” said councilman Mike Henn, who represents the peninsula in his district. “It’s a hallmark for the transformation of the peninsula that’s taking place.”
The 10.5-acre bay front project will include a Girl Scouts Leadership Center, a multi-purpose community center and sailing program building, public beach area, 23-slip marina with a 200-foot long side tie area, park area, basketball courts, children’s play area, restrooms and public parking.
Henn has been involved with the project since he was elected to council in 2006. He joined the Marina Park sub-committee that was charged with developing the concept. The group met numerous times over the years, he said, and a lot of work went into the project
Prior to that, in 1956, the city council decided to turn that patch of land into a mobile home park to raise some money, Henn explained.
“It only took us 58 years to fix that mistake,” he added.
Determining what to do with the land was one of the first projects Mayor Pro Tem Ed Selich took on when he joined city council eight years ago.
There were a lot of ideas, he explained. It was a lot of collaboration and compromise that ultimately led to the decision, he added.
The project is expected to take two years to complete.
Girl Scouts of Orange County CEO Nancy Nygren said she hopes the community is excited about the project.
“We want to express deep gratitude to the city of Newport Beach for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, here on this beautiful site, to develop a Girl Scout leadership center,” she said.
“I think it’s a very positive development on the city’s part,” she said after the ceremony.
The organization is leasing the land from the city for $1 per year, for 50 years. The lease was paid in full by a donor at a council meeting last January.
The city will be managing the construction, but the Girl Scouts will need to pay to have the center built.
The main hurdle now is raising the $5 million needed to build the center, Nygren said, although she is confident it will happen. They are currently looking for a legacy donor, whose name would be displayed on the outside of the building, and/or a handful of major donors, she explained.
Donors will ultimately be a part of helping change the lives of thousands of Orange County girls, Nygren said.
Lives like that of Olivia Bobrownicki, 11, a sixth grader from Fairmont Private School in Anaheim, who spoke during the ceremony.
“I am very excited about the Girl Scout Leadership Center and the impact it will have on girls like me across Orange County,” she said.
Bobrownicki, who has been in Girl Scouts for six years, said she has had the opportunity to learn and try many new activities and skills through the organization.
“And I learned that a girl can do anything,” she added.
Scouts will learn all of that and more through the center, Nygren said
It’s will be a special place for girls, she said.
“This is where girls will begin and continue to lead their best lives,” Nygren said. “This is where girls will gather as a sisterhood and collaborate in a girl-only safe environment.”
Girls will also learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, at the center, she said.
“They’re going to see themselves in various careers,” Nygren said. “And they’re going to pursue their interests and learn how they can change the world.”