Corona del Mar Today: Officials still hoping for 'Restaurant Row'

September 25, 2010|By Amy Senk
  • A rendering of the proposed "Restaurant Row."
A rendering of the proposed "Restaurant Row." (Daily Pilot )

Imagine driving down MacArthur Boulevard toward Coast Highway and seeing a quaint row of outdoor cafes with fountains and landscaping — and not a snarl of traffic as three lanes squeeze to two on the way into town.

"This would be a beautiful entrance," said Bernie Svalstad, chairman of the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District advisory board. "This is one of the main entrances to Newport Beach as well as to Corona del Mar. This could have a big impact."

Plans for "Restaurant Row" have been under consideration for years as part of the BID's ongoing beautification and vision plan for Corona del Mar, which dates back to 1999 and was revised in 2004. Part of the process included the relinquishment of Coast Highway from CalTrans to the city of Newport Beach in 2004, which allowed local officials to make improvements to medians along with other changes, like pedestrian crosswalks.


Recently local leaders have renewed their interest in the plans and are determined to take a proposal to the City Council in the next few months.

"Restaurant Row" would be created by reducing traffic to two lanes along Coast Highway, starting near Irvine Terrace instead of near Carnation Avenue — a change that traffic studies have shown would create less congestion in the area. The sidewalk would then be pushed out into the old traffic lane, creating a space for outdoor seating for about five restaurants in that area.

Jim Walker, owner of The Bungalow and another BID board member, said the changes would be good for business, but also they would create a vibrant village experience.

"It would almost be like the Gaslight area in San Diego," he said. "I don't know why we wouldn't want to do it."

Walker said he met recently with other restaurant owners in the area, and they all were "enthusiastic."

That doesn't mean the project is easy, he said. Restaurants that expand their seating capacity will need to create more parking, and the city will have to figure out who owns the new seating area that used to be part of Coast Highway. Landlords might not want to own it and pay extra property tax, so the city of Newport Beach could retain ownership and charge a nominal rental fee, Walker said.

Alcohol regulations, as well as grading where the highway slopes downward, all must be considered, Walker said.

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