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Civic Center to make official debut

Open house, with food and events, will be held so residents can see Newport Beach's $130-million-plus project.

May 01, 2013|By Jill Cowan
  • [The new, Newport Beach City Hall chambers during swearing-in ceremony, Tuesday.] *** []
[The new, Newport Beach City Hall chambers during swearing-in… (Don Leach, Daily…)

Whether they love it, hate it or didn't know it was there, Newport Beach residents will finally have their chance Saturday to see for themselves what the city's new Civic Center has to offer.

"I think the Civic Center is going to be a focal point of community pride," Mayor Keith Curry said Wednesday. "I think it's going to be a gathering place. I'm looking forward to the community seeing all of what is involved in the Civic Center."

Debate over the project has continued to rage, with some blasting its $130-million-plus price tag as excessive, even as crews planted succulents and city staff moved into their new digs near Fashion Island and Newport Center, off Avocado Avenue.

But the city has asked skeptics to reserve judgment until they check out the finished product — a campus that includes the council chambers, city office building, 16-acre park with more than a mile of trails, 450-space parking structure and 17,000-square-foot expansion of the central library.

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"I think it's important to remember that it's six separate facilities," Curry said.

Added Assistant City Manager Steve Badum: "I think we've delivered such an awesome facility that I think, not that there won't be any naysayers — there's always a few. But our impressions from the folks who have come in are they're really, really excited about it and they're happy about how it turned out."

At the long-planned open house, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.,

visitors will be able to roam the grounds, snack on samples donated by 22 Newport Beach Restaurant Assn. members and take part in a range of activities.

An official dedication ceremony will kick off festivities.

The event will bookend a years-long saga that started with a preliminary plan to build a new City Hall at the old site on the Balboa Peninsula. Then, after a battle that divided the community, the move to Newport Center was set when residents narrowly approved a ballot measure in February 2008.

The City Council has met in the new chambers since December, leaving behind its old home.

In early March, the rest of the city's employees — along with boxes of documents and other accumulated stuff — followed.

Curry said the new, more-open floor plan has already made city staff more accessible.

"I've met more city employees in the past two weeks than in my entire seven years on the City Council," he joked.

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