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$60 million Back Bay project includes housing, retail, boat storage

The development includes 49 residential units, 32,000 square feet of retail space and a 140-space boat storage building on the 7-acre waterfront lot in Newport Harbor..

Published: March 27, 2013 Updated: March 28, 2013 9:22 a.m.


A new waterfront development is in the works at Newport Harbor's Back Bay that would replace an existing RV and boat storage lot with a mixed-use residential and retail center, along with a 140-space dry stack boat storage facility.

The plan, developed by Bayside Village Marina LLC, would place 32,000 square feet of restaurant, retail and office space, a dry stack boat storage building for 140 powerboats and 49 residential units in two- to three-story high structures along Pacific Coast Highway and Bayside Drive.

Located north of the Coast Highway Bridge, the 7-acre site is currently used as a parking lot for the adjacent marina and a 170-space long-term RV and boat storage area owned and operated by the current developers. Pearson's Port – the 42-year-old floating fish market – and Southwind kayak and paddleboard rental facility also lease property on the land.

According to early renderings, the development is dubbed "Back Bay Landing," and would include a public waterfront walkway along the shoreline just south of the Coast Highway Bridge near Balboa Marina, running north to the edge of the adjacent Bayside Village mobile home park. A 55-foot-tall lighthouse is also planned that would include public access to a viewing deck at the top of the tower.

If built, the project would house the first enclosed dry stack storage facility in Southern California, joining similar projects in the works at Dana Point Harbor and Marina del Rey. The creation of a water inlet along the marina would allow for boats to be lifted in and out of the harbor onto racks in the proposed storage facility.

"Right now, as an RV and boat storage lot, it's not too aesthetically pleasing," said Michael Gelfand, president of Terra Vista Management, which operates both the Bayside Village site and the nearby Newport Dunes Resort. Gelfand said he and his family, which owns the property, have been trying to figure out what to do with the land for the past 20 years, working on ways to create something financially feasible. The inclusion of residences along with the recreational and commercial uses could be the solution.

"What we've got planned now is an extremely attractive project that would provide boat storage and boat launching capabilities in Newport where there is much demand, retail shops and restaurants to bring people to the water, and access to the shoreline that people didn't have in the past," he said.

Preliminary designs have been outlined by Laguna Hills-based architect firm Stoutenborough Inc, designer of South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court.

But before specific design plans can be submitted for city and Coastal Commission approval, project manager Gordon Craig said, land use amendments to the city's general plan and the local coastal plan would be needed to get the residential component of the project approved. The site's current recreational and marine commercial designation would need to be changed to a mixed-use designation, allowing for residential units to be included.

With the Gelfand family owning and operating both the Bayside Village mobile home park and the planned development site, Craig said, the plan would be to transfer some of the unused residential density from the mobile home park issued in the city's 2006 general plan to the new development.

The next step is to get the draft environmental impact report – expected to be completed by late April – in for review to the city's Planning Commission as early as this summer.

Craig estimates that if all goes to plan, the land use designations could be approved by both the city and the Coastal Commission by 2014. Once the land use changes have been approved, the second round of regulatory approvals would commence, as the more specific structural and architectural plans will require a Coastal Development Permit that requires city and Coastal Commission nods as well. Craig expects the second round of approvals to be completed by the end of 2014.

"It's a lengthy process, but one we think is worthwhile," Craig said.

So far, a notice of preparation of the plan was issued in October 2012, and a public scoping meeting was held to get initial feedback on the project and help craft a draft environmental report for the project.

As for the current tenants, Craig said the plan would be to keep both Pearson's Port and the kayak rental facility on the property, but the RV storage would be removed.

Terese Pearson, owner of the floating fish market, said she's happy to see the changes to the landside, as long as the market can remain at its current location along the harbor's main channel.

"We love where we are, and we're totally OK with whatever they decide up there, just as long as they can keep the access to us through the build process," Pearson said.

Next door at the mobile home community, Bayside Village homeowner's association President Pat Nagle said the plan has raised traffic and security concerns for residents of the private community, but many see the shops, restaurants and walkway as an overall benefit to the community.

"Right now, it's just an RV and boat storage lot, and that doesn't do anything for our community," Nagle said.

A draft environmental report is expected to be released by late April, and could go before the city's Planning Commission by August.

As for a construction start date, Craig gave a rough estimate of 2016, as multiple regulatory approvals, public meetings and plan revisions are expected before a shovel hits the ground.

"It's kind of a site that's been missed over the years," Craig said. "You drive by it and you see the (county sanitation) pump station, but you don't see much of anything else. This will be something worth looking at and going to."

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