The remodel comes as nearby property owners study how to best use the adjacent land between City Hall and Lido Marina Village. Like some other sections of the city, the area appears to be slowly transforming into a modern, more upscale swath of Newport Beach.
"The tenant mix there is really pretty tired at this point," said Councilman Mike Henn, who represents the district that includes the Albertsons shopping center.
The stucco-and-wood center has been home to a pizza parlor, Chinese food restaurant, Carl's Jr., KFC and other inexpensive shops. Their leases expire in August, and Albertsons will close its doors Aug. 19.
Marketing materials say the shopping center will reopen in the spring.
But not everyone is happy with the change. Greg Napier, 47, has been a butcher at Albertsons for eight years.
"It's a beach town. It's not a high-end community," he said.
Dubbed "the Landing," the renovated strip will have a slightly taller façade with brushed aluminum siding, modern light fixtures and a stone-and-brick veneer. A new building with a Chase bank branch is planned for the corner of the parking lot nearest Balboa Boulevard and 32nd Street.
Only one of the current tenants, Newport Nails, has signed up for the new space, according to marketing materials provided by Catellus, the property owner and developer.
Expected new businesses include a Chipotle Mexican Grill and Crowburgerkitchen, an outpost of the Crow Bar and Kitchen in Corona del Mar.
With burgers ranging from around $5 up to $18, the Crowbrugerkitchen will feature locally bought produce and sit-down service, said owner Steve Geary.
"The food will be better that what's in that area now," he said. "It should be something that the Peninsula embraces."
The café will have 20 to 25 beers on tap and an outdoor patio. That's a far cry from Rice Land, which offers a $3.99 BBQ chicken rice bowl and green booths. Orange chicken pieces on toothpicks, though, are a welcome treat for diners pondering the menu.