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  • Jason Tuvia

Developer plans walkable neighborhood in Newport Beach

Newport Beach, one of Southern California's most affluent cities, is about to transform an industrial area near John Wayne Airport into a distinctly urban community of homes and shops.

Uptown Newport Village will replace a pair of aging industrial buildings on 25 acres near the airport with a walkable neighborhood of shops, restaurants, parks and upscale homes and apartments, according to Shopoff Group, an Irvine developer.

Mayor Rush N. Hill, who is an architect, said he is excited about the project and pleased that it will be a dense neighborhood by local standards.

"It's a relatively new kind of product for us with respect to density and height," he said. "We look at this as a great stride forward in walkable communities. We think it's very appropriate for the area."

The first phase of the project will cost $225 million and include about 575 units, said William Shopoff, chief executive of Shopoff Group. Most of the housing will be apartments, but there will also be condominiums and town houses for sale.

Purchasers "will be a combination of move-up and move-down buyers," Shopoff said, "someone who really wants to be in Newport."

Apartment dwellers will probably be on the young side and single.

"There will be the divorced dads who've got kids in the Newport schools and Mom's got the house," Shopoff said. "We think that's a pretty sizable market, I am sad to say."

Located along Jamboree Road between Birch Street and MacArthur Boulevard, most Uptown Newport Village apartment buildings will be five stories tall. The exteriors will have multiple nooks, crannies and balconies to give them texture that will set them apart from cheaper flat-faced buildings, he said.

"The city was relentless on making architecture that distinguished it as Newport Beach," Shopoff said. "This is the entry to the city on Jamboree."

Newport Beach is made up of about 10 "villages," the mayor said.

"There is walkability within most of them but no connectivity between them," Hill said. "We're trying to create more environments where a young couple with a stroller can get out to eat and shop without having to rely on a car."

Other residential developments could fit into the northern tip of the city where Uptown Village will rise, he said.

"Certainly in the airport area there is additional opportunity for projects like this," he said. "Newport is mostly a built-out town, so it's hard to imagine this density in other locations."

Demolition of one of the two industrial buildings on the Uptown Newport site has begun. The other building is occupied by TowerJazz, which makes semiconductor chips. TowerJazz has a lease through 2017 and may extend its occupancy until 2027, according to Shopoff.

"We have to accommodate TowerJazz," he said.

Shopoff Group will serve as master developer for the site, which means it will build the infrastructure including streets, sewers and underground electrical service. Shopoff Group will also install a storm water runoff treatment system designed to protect water quality in Newport Beach's Back Bay and the first of two 1-acre public parks.

Shopoff Group will partner with Picerne Group of San Juan Capistrano to develop 483 luxury apartments on a 5-acre parcel in Phase One. Another, smaller, parcel intended for luxury town houses and condominiums is being marketed to other developers.

Other developers are expected to buy land for development in the second phase. One potential developer might propose a luxury condo high-rise whose occupancy would be restricted to older residents, Shopoff said.

When both phases are complete, Uptown Newport Village will feature 1,244 residences, numerous shops and restaurants, two 1-acre parks that will be open to the public, plazas, fountains and public walkways.

Uptown Newport is probably the second-largest planned housing development in southern Orange County outside of the Great Park, said Esmael Adibi, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University.

"The location is extremely attractive because of its proximity to the beach, and it's in South County where the majority of jobs are being generated now," Adibi said.

Large, growing companies such as Allergan and First American Financial Corp. are concentrated around the Irvine area, he said. "People are attracted to get a home close to their jobs," he said. "Jobs are more important than the beach."

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