Newport Boulevard with direct freeway access -- the center simply did not
provide enough customers. There was no business, he said bluntly.
"It's been a poorly managed mall for years now," Lambiase said.
"There's no foot traffic, and that's what we feed off of."
While anchored by big name stores such as Niketown, Barnes & Noble and
Virgin Megastore, Triangle Square has struggled to retain tenants during
its nine years.
Since it opened in 1992, the center has lost other major tenants, such
as Ralphs grocery store and Sfuzzi restaurant. Two weeks ago, Whole Foods
announced it would close shop in April.
Tom Estes, the property manager at Triangle Square, said the
restaurant leaves another 2,000 square feet of leasable space. Johnny
Rockets will be the sixth vacancy at the shopping center, according to
previous interviews with Estes.
"We're concerned as any owner would be about losing a tenant, but we
are confident for the future," Estes said.
Other Johnny Rockets locations in Orange County include Laguna Beach,
the Irvine Spectrum and the Block at Orange.
Estes once compared Triangle Square to both the Irvine Spectrum and
the Block at Orange, saying the latter two "came along and imitated the
[outdoor entertainment] style."
But while Johnny Rockets is thriving in Irvine and Orange, it is
leaving Costa Mesa.
Steele Platt, the founder and chief executive of Yard House, also in
Triangle Square, said center management must understand the changes that
need to be made to turn the center into a vibrant entertainment center
like the Spectrum and Block.
The Yard House is thriving in its current location on the third floor
because it is a destination restaurant -- meaning it attracts specific
customers who come specifically to eat or drink there.
Platt said he is working with the owners of Triangle Square to change
the whole look and concept of the center. The square must create its own
unique destination qualities to compete, he said.
"In a matter of time, they will find their own," Platt said. "They are
not far off from making it a very successful business center."
In October, Triangle Square Marketing Director Cori Abbs said the
center was trying to target more tenants such as the Yard House to
transform the current food court into more of a restaurant and
entertainment plaza. With the large open space on the top floor, the
center could host live bands and become a popular nighttime destination,
Neither Platt nor Estes would confirm nor deny that possibility
"We've got a lot of planning to do," Estes said.
The Yard House owner said he was trying to spearhead a transformation
but added that "it was a matter of [Triangle Square management] agreeing
to [his] proposals."
* Lolita Harper covers Costa Mesa. She may be reached at (949)
574-4275 or by e-mail at o7 firstname.lastname@example.org .