‘Napa Valley-esque’ downtown to be built in Laguna Niguel

South OC city approves plans for a “live-work” city center on 25 acres

Napa’s Wine Country might be moving to south Orange County – at least in style.

A pair of Newport Beach developers has won approval to build a 25-acre “Napa Valley-esque” Laguna Niguel City Center of hundreds of apartments, offices, shops and restaurants in Laguna Niguel, the Orange County Business Journal reported.

The Laguna Niguel City Council approved plans by Burnham Ward Properties and Sares Regis Group to build 275 apartments, 175,000 square feet of commercial space, a new County of Orange library and a “town green” event plaza near Crown Valley and Alicia parkways.

“We pushed the design to deliver a unique Napa Valley ‘esque’ experience that will prioritize food offerings and great spaces between the buildings,” Bryon Ward, a partner in Burnham Ward, said in a statement.

The developers plan to break ground next year. Completion is expected to take two or three years.

For years, Laguna Niguel officials and residents have wanted a place for the community to gather.

The new retail village will include two apartment buildings, offices, a state-of-art library and the town green to replace 25-acres near Crown Valley and Alicia parkways, according to the Orange County Register.

The site is now home to an aging library, a shuttered South County Justice Center, a county maintenance yard and abandoned parking lots.

The county owns the land, which is being leased by the Laguna Niguel Town Center Partners, made up of Burnham Ward Properties and Sares-Regis Group. Bryon Ward is heading up the commercial and retail components of the project, while Chris Payne is handling the residential development for Sares-Regis Group.

“We’ve never had a downtown,” Councilman Fred Minagar, a former two-time mayor, told the Register. “It’s good for the future generation. It’s time to beautify the scar we have there.”

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In 2019, the county executed a lease of up to 79-year years with the Laguna Niguel Town Center Partners after a previous developer pulled out because they could not make a deal with the county. At the time, the project was estimated to be $210 million.

The project required a general plan amendment, zone changes and zoning code amendments. It also needed a site development permit and an environmental impact report, all completed and approved.

Ward said the project’s design would incorporate Laguna Niguel’s agrarian ranching roots.

The coastal modern ranch-style architecture will feature lots of wood, steel and stone. The buildings will appear as though they and the site were developed over time, he said.

The 275 apartments will be in two buildings resembling the landscape. the developers said. There will be clubhouses, resort pools, roof-top decks, state of the art fitness centers and pet spas.

“It will be very communal,” Ward said, “with an emphasis on coastal wellness and farm-to-table dining.”

In January, Burnham Ward closed the sale on its 266,000-square-foot Long Beach Exchange (LBX) shopping center to PGIM Real Estate for nearly $160 million.

[Orange County Business Journal, Orange County Register] – Dana Bartholomew

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