NEWPORT BEACH – Planners and Newport Beach city staff spent five days with Mariner’s Mile stakeholders to collectively find a consensus of how the 1.3-mile stretch of road should look like in the future.
Consultants and stakeholders interacted during the five-day charrette to discuss possible design concepts aimed at improving vehicular flow along Coast Highway, the pedestrian experience in the most commercialized sections of the district and bicycle access.
The Congress for New Urbanism hosted the planning workshops from Oct. 17 to 21, to plan out Mariner’s Mile’s future after construction along the corridor is completed.
Mariners Mile is currently a construction zone, with segments of Coast Highway being worked on through the spring of 2015.
At the end of the charrette, the Congress for New Urbanism, a non-profit organization that promotes walkable communities, mixed-use development, sustainability and healthier living conditions; drafted two options of how Mariner’s Mile could be redeveloped.
One option would feature a seven-lane throughway, with three lanes of traffic in each direction and a median lane for turns. This option would essentially create Mariner’s Mile as a highway for commuters heading to the Los Angeles or South Orange counties..
The creation of a throughway would provide for limited redevelopment, remove street parking options off of Coast Highway and create a series of independent projects. Under this option, no residential units would be added, though 113 hotel rooms and 34,500 square feet of commercial space could be developed.
A second option would be to create a waterfront village, which would have wider sidewalks, a dedicated lane for bicycles and two lanes in each direction for vehicular traffic. This option would focus on traffic management to keep traffic flowing along Coast Highway despite having fewer lanes for automobiles.
The village option would attempt to maintain Mariner’s Mile as a working waterfront while also making the district pedestrian friendly.
A water taxi feature could be included in the waterfront village option.
More parking could also be added. In addition to maintaining parallel parking slots along Coast Highway, a three- or four-story parking structure could be erected.
The waterfront village could also bring 120,000 square feet of commercial space, 288 hotel rooms and 200 residential units to the corridor.
Interestingly enough, much of the discussion and many of the renderings displayed only focused on a quarter-mile stretch of Mariner’s Mile between the Holiday Inn Express Newport Beach Hotel and where Coast Highway meets Riverside Avenue. Several art galleries, eateries, exotic automobile showrooms and lifestyle vendors already populate this quarter-mile stretch of Coast Highway.
The Congress for New Urbanism convened the charrette with the intent to maintain the corridor’s maritime character, create a bicycle and pedestrian friendly core and Mariner’s Mile remains authentic to Newport Beach residents.
Matthew Shannon, the managing director of Urbanus Group and a director of Congress for New Urbanism’s California chapter, said the charrette fulfilled its intent and met its goals.
“Our charge was to identify solutions that will improve Coast Highway’s vehicular flow, pedestrian experience, bicycle mobility and safety, and access and visibility to the waterfront. We accomplished these objectives despite some of them seemingly being at odds with each other,” Shannon said.
He added while the seven-lane throughway was the preferred option coming into the workshop, Mariner’s Mile would ultimately resemble a version of the waterfront village proposal.
“The first option, which represents the main action option until now, prioritizes vehicle mobility at the expense of the pedestrian and the bicyclist. Retail along the highway will be badly impacted. Conversely, the second option will do the opposite, to the benefit of pedestrians, bicyclists and retailers, except that vehicle mobility still should improve,” Shannon said.
With the prospect of Mariner’s Mile becoming a destination, Ned McCune is concerned about an idea to build a parking structure adjacent to his commercial property.
Owner of Mariner’s Mile Square, McCune said the construction of a parking structure next to his property would take a year to build and each of his tenants would either have to move out or shut down.
McCune, who also lives close to Mariner’s Mile, said the charrette would have been better off studying how the village could evolve over time.
Another stakeholder hoped to see the fragmented waterfront boardwalk connected and made whole.
“We’ve been trying to get it connected for a while,” said Tony Shaw, who owns a business and lives in Mariner’s Mile. He also believed parking is currently being underutilized and a structure would be a good idea.
John Corrough, who runs a consulting group on Balboa Island, said while many land use and water access concerns were recognized by consultants and planners, a little more attention could have been given to the harbor’s role in making Mariner’s Mile a neighborhood-themed urban center.
“I do feel that a better understanding of the roles that the harbor could have served in accomplishing the study’s intent would have made the results even better, but [the consultants] had a lot to look at,” Corrough said.
With stakeholder input collected, the Congress for New Urbanism is now putting together a draft report to share with Newport Beach city staff.
Kim Brandt, the community development director for Newport Beach, said the report would significantly contribute to upcoming community discussions about how Mariner’s Mile is ultimately revitalized.
“Mariner’s Mile … has been identified by the city and community leaders as a potential revitalization area. The stakeholders did a great job communicating to the design team their ideas and concerns related to improving pedestrian connectivity, vehicle access and availability of parking,” Brandt said. “We recognize that this is the beginning of a much larger and complex discussion of the Mariner’s Mile area.”
A draft report could be presented to city officials by Nov. 30.