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Developers offers more details on Town Center plan

December 07, 2000

Jennifer Kho

COSTA MESA -- City Council members and residents this week exposed a

cornucopia of unanswered questions and concerns about the proposed

54-acre Town Center expansion, which has been in the works for months.

The project -- a collaboration between South Coast Plaza, the Orange

County Performing Arts Center and Commonwealth Partners LLC -- calls for

a pedestrian-oriented cultural arts district bordered by Bristol Street,

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Sunflower Avenue, Avenue of the Arts and the San Diego Freeway. It also

includes a new symphony hall, expansion of South Coast Repertory Theater,

an art museum or academy, restaurants, an improved parking area and

office space.

The proposal includes a new 186-room hotel at Anton Boulevard and

Bristol Street where Scott's Seafood Bar and Grill is located, but the

restaurant has a long-term lease and will not be displaced, said Paul

Freeman, a South Coast Plaza spokesman.

Residents who spoke at the public hearing during Monday's council

meeting offered a variety of suggestions and opinions.

John Feeney, a Costa Mesa resident, said he thinks the city is wasting

time and money by considering the project, which he sees as a

"playground" for the rich, when it should be addressing the needs of the

middle class.

Another resident, Douglas Toohey, said the plan looks good, but it

should include public transportation, such as a tram, to accommodate

pedestrians.

"Who's going to hike from South Coast Plaza to the Noguchi gardens and

then to their hotel or car?" he asked. "I think this is a conceptual

problem that hasn't been addressed. Now we're talking about making it

even bigger. The carrot's out and I think it's going to go uneaten. The

[Bridge of Gardens] helps, but even taking that, my wife and I are

hobbling back to the car."

South Coast Plaza's request mainly consists of a glass office building

on the corner of Sunflower Avenue and Bristol Street, Freeman said. The

project, if approved by the council, would break ground during the next

year.

The Commonwealth Partners' part of the project is bordered by Bristol

Street, Anton Boulevard, Avenue of the Arts and the San Diego Freeway.

The Isamu Noguchi California Scenario garden is the heart of the

development, said Ken Kay, a consultant for Commonwealth Partners. He

added that everything else -- including an office building with a glass

design that will expose the sculpture garden from Anton Boulevard and

Town Center Drive -- is being built around it.

The garden, along special paving, furniture and other artwork, will

help provide a sense of cohesiveness to the project, he said. The

sculpture garden is a part of a development agreement, which includes a

land-use restriction that protects the garden as public open space for 25

years.

"We feel like we're doing the right thing and have come up with a

truly modern urban design," Kay said.

The council is scheduled to hold its next public hearing on the

project Jan. 15.

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