Lobdell: How about some Triangle offense?

November 11, 2010|By William Lobdell

I've always rooted for Triangle Square in Costa Mesa, which over the years has been similar to rooting for the Los Angeles Clippers.

So much potential, so little to show for it.

Since it opened in 1992 as the centerpiece of the city's downtown redevelopment, the shopping center has been as successful as a liquor salesman at a Mormon conference.

Even superstar tenants such as Niketown, Virgin Megastore, The Gap, Ralph's, Barnes and Noble, Johnny Rockets, Humphrey Yogart and La Salsa couldn't make a go of it at Triangle Square. And the center has had more owners than Lindsay Lohan has had stints in rehab.


If these were proven winners elsewhere, what went wrong in Costa Mesa?

It couldn't be location. Triangle Square — which cost $62 million to build — is at the intersections of the 55 Freeway, Harbor Boulevard, 19th Street and Newport Boulevard. Roughly 122,000 vehicles drive by each day.

Triangle Square has two large design flaws that no one has been able to overcome so far. First, its basic layout is awkward, with no flow — or easy way to navigate — between the street and second levels.

The bigger problem is Triangle Square's labyrinth of a parking garage, which features narrow lanes, confusing directions, tight turns and dinky spaces.

In Orange County, we are soft when it comes to parking. We expect to drive right up to the businesses we patronize. If there's any other barrier — a parking garage or a paid lot— we tend to stay away. New Yorkers would laugh at us.

I liked the proposal a few years back to turn much of Triangle Square into urban housing—Costa Mesa's version of downtown lofts. But that idea died when the housing bubble burst.

The latest plan to revamp the nearly 20-year-old center is scheduled to come before the Costa Mesa Planning Commission on Monday.

The mall's latest owners, Newport Beach-based Greenlaw Partners, want to turn nearly 60,000-square-foot space in Triangle Square's basement and street level — originally home to a supermarket, Barnes and Noble and North Face — into a high-end 24-Hour Fitness health club (the 24-Hour Fitness across the street would remain).

Greenlaw and city staff believe the health club—which will include a swimming pool and basketball court—will help draw people to Triangle Square. I hope so, but in my experience, people who go to the gym don't do much after working out except maybe get a smoothie or coffee before heading home.

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