While workers will begin grading the site for the parking structure next week, "it'll probably be sometime early next year before the condos get started," said Mike Eadie, vice president of Rutter Development Corp.
The parking structure must be built first because it will serve businesses at 1901 Newport -- Turnip Rose catering and banquet hall, medical and executive offices, and the Vegas nightclub -- once the condos are built on what is now surface parking.
When the project was first proposed, residents complained it would be too tall and the density too high. Ritter sued the city over a hearing on the project it said was improper, but the suit was dropped in June 2004 after the City Council approved an agreement for the affordable housing units.
Residents who thought the project was too dense circulated referendum petitions to get the condo project on the ballot, but the effort stalled in February 2004 after they failed to get enough signatures by the deadline.
The Plaza Residences will include four buildings that are four stories tall except for the sides that face Bernard Street, which will be three stories.
The 488-space parking structure should be finished in summer 2006 and the two-bedroom condos are likely to be available in early 2007, Eadie said. He said his company specializes in "high-end" development, but he doesn't yet know how much the units are likely to cost.
To some, the project is a harbinger of future improvements on the city's Westside. The City Council recently was presented with several urban plans that would allow mixed-use buildings with commercial space below and residences on upper floors.
The mixture of affordable housing with higher-end units at 1901 Newport will be a first for the city and potentially a model for future developments, said Bill Turpit, who served on the committee that drew up a Westside revitalization plan.
The project could also anchor upgrades to West 19th Street and even benefit businesses at Triangle Square, he said.
"I think it will have a very positive impact," said Turpit, who lives near downtown Costa Mesa. "The people that want to live in an urban city such as this are the kind of people that like to walk to stores, restaurants and movie theaters."