Visit Newport Beach Previews Local Transformations for 2024

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Tourists prepare to leave the Balboa Ferry for the Fun Zone. NB Indy file photo

Visit Newport Beach, the City of Newport Beach’s official Destination Marketing Organization, has provided a rundown of business openings and transformation within the city for the first quarter of 2024.

Perhaps the most notable news is that the iconic Balboa Fun Zone, a cherished landmark in Newport Beach for over 80 years, is gearing up for what is called a “spectacular transformation.”

According to information posted on the Fun Zone website contributed by Celeste Dennerline, Historian of Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach, Edward Abbott purchased the area (from today’s 9th Street to just beyond Main St.) in 1892 for $1 an acre. He built a shack and the first pleasure dock in the bay. Known as Abbott’s Landing, he offered rides on his paddlewheel steamer, built cottages for overnight stays, and polished shells to sell inland.

The tourist trade gradually grew and then exploded when the Red Car tracks reached the area in 1906.  The Pavilion, Balboa Pier, and Balboa Hotel were all constructed at that time to meet the tourists’ needs and help local promoters sell available lots. In 1906, the area was renamed “Balboa” when it incorporated with the Newport Beach Township to become the City of Newport Beach.

Balboa Fun Zone post card circa 1950

In 1936, Al Anderson leased the property from boatyard owner Fred Lewis and constructed an early version of the Fun Zone. He owned and operated the Ferris Wheel and Merry-Go-Round.

The property changed ownership several times over the years. Most recently, Chartwell Real Estate Development acquired the property in 2021. Chartwell’s Operating Partner is Henry Pyle, who led the acquisition on behalf of the Pyle family, Newport Beach residents since the 1960s.

“We are excited and honored to assume stewardship of the Balboa Fun Zone and look forward to working with the city and community of Newport Beach to restore this historic 80-year-old landmark,” said Pyle in a statement upon the purchase of The Fun Zone.

Now, the Pyle family has announced a comprehensive revitalization project that promises to bring renewed excitement to the community. According to Visit Newport Beach, the family intends to preserve and build upon The Fun Zone’s rich legacy and also actively contribute to the ongoing narrative.

Visit https://www.balboafunzone.com.

Crystal Cove Historic District

Crystal Cove’s Historic District is also making news. Built between 1920 and 1940, the Crystal Cove cottages offer visitors a chance to step back in time and spend the night in a restored classic cottage just steps from the beach.

This year, newly restored cottages along the district’s north beach will become available to the public to rent.

Restored Crystal Cove cottages

Backstory: According to CrystalCove.org, Crystal Cove Conservancy is the nonprofit public benefit organization partnered with Crystal Cove State Park. Their mission is to restore the park, educate future environmental leaders, and protect Crystal Cove for generations to come.

The Conservancy was founded in 1999 by Laura Davick, a third-generation resident of Crystal Cove who spearheaded the effort to preserve the Historic District when it was at risk of being redeveloped into a luxury resort.

The Conservancy is now one of California State Parks’ largest public benefit organizations. So far, 28 cottages have been fully restored, providing one-of-a-kind getaways for visitors and reportedly financial resources to help protect the 4,000 acres of Crystal Cove State Park.

Restoring the remaining 17 cottages will complete the Crystal Cove Historic District renovations.

Visit https://crystalcove.org/beachcottages/cottages.

Fashion Island

Meanwhile at Fashion Island, a new Restoration Hardware will bring an 80,000-square-foot luxury shopping experience with a signature rooftop restaurant when it opens in Spring 2024. Fashion Island is also elevating its portfolio with the addition of recently opened establishments such as The Alcove, Arhaus, BYLT Basics, and Shop Common Thread. Expect exciting new arrivals in 2024, including Good American and Veronica Beard. Also now open is uber luxe jewelry concept and private club Privé from locally based Lugano Diamonds.

For more information, visit www.visitnewportbeach.com.

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