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Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024

Green Light for $200M+ Laguna Niguel City Center

A long-planned city center for Laguna Niguel has taken a notable step forward after the two local developers heading the project got the City Council’s green light.

Burnham Ward Properties and Sares Regis Group, both based in Newport Beach, won unanimous approval to move ahead with the Laguna Niguel City Center, which will add 275 apartments alongside retail, office and restaurant space as part of a community hub themed with the city’s ranching history in mind.

The initial approvals come about three years after Burnham Ward first proposed the project, envisioned as a proper downtown for Laguna Niguel, OC’s 16th-largest city with about 66,750 people.

Sares Regis will handle the residential component of the project, which is expected to include 275 apartments with “resort-like amenities.”

“Our community engagement efforts were well received and input from city staff, community leaders and concerned citizens was a critical component of how the project evolved over multiple years leading to approval of this iconic project which we anticipate will become the heart of the city,” Sares Regis Managing Director Chris Payne said.

The project, initially expected to cost between $200 million and $220 million, will likely begin construction in mid-2023 after the developers wrap the permitting process.

Public-Private Partnership

Similar to its work in Dana Point—where it is heading the retail and restaurant portion of that city’s harbor renovation project—Burnham Ward entered into a public-private partnership to develop the mixed-use complex. It will be built on a county-owned 24-acre site adjacent to Laguna Niguel City Hall, at Crown Valley Parkway and Alicia Parkway.

“This project demonstrates the many benefits of ‘P3s’ and will not only allow for a long-term revenue stream for the county with no taxpayer burden, it will also be a tremendous asset for the city and residents of Laguna Niguel,” Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said.

It’s the second time the county has explored a public-private partnership in hopes to create a new city center.

In 2015, the city and county announced it would work with Shaheen Sadeghi, the founder of Costa Mesa’s LAB Holding LLC, for what was to be a $150 million development called the Agora Arts District. The plan, which was to include a food hall, didn’t move ahead and the partnership ended in 2017.

A new partnership, operating under the Laguna Niguel Town Center Partners LLC name, was announced in June 2019.

Live, Work, Play

The Burnham Ward-Sares Regis project will count 175,000 square feet of commercial space, including a range of restaurants “from small purveyors to full-service, chef-driven concepts,” and “specially selected retailers,” according to city documents.

With the new city center, “residents will no longer have to travel to neighboring cities for the best culinary experiences,” according to Laguna Niguel Mayor Elaine Gennawey.

The mixed-use center is being touted as a work, live and play concept, with new offices set in a walkable community near stores, restaurants and homes.

The 275 apartments will be situated in two buildings next to the retail portion with several floor plan configurations, including one, two- and three-bedroom flats as well as two-story townhomes “catering to young professionals, families and empty-nesters.”

Resident amenities include pools and spas, a fitness facility, rooftop decks, clubrooms, game rooms, outdoor dining areas and a pet spa.

The project also includes a rebuild of the center’s nearly 50-year-old library.

Community Hub

The city center aims to serve as a new community hub, with a “lushly landscaped central plaza and intimate outdoor spaces filled with family friendly activities and programmed events, including farmers markets, live music, yoga and movies in the park,” according to city documents.

The architecture will pay homage to Laguna Niguel’s ranching heritage, with the use of natural woods, steel and stone to create a modern agrarian feel.

The center will include “romantic patio spaces, meandering paseos, herb gardens, water features and a range of public art within the project that will continue to tell Laguna Niguel’s unique story for future generations,” Burnham Ward Partner Bryon Ward said.

“We pushed the design to deliver a unique Napa Valley ‘esque experience that will prioritize food offerings and great spaces between the buildings—all in a vibrant mixed-use and dynamic live-work setting,” said Ward, whose company’s other developments include Costa Mesa’s South Coast Collection, or SOCO, Newport Beach’s Castaway Commons, and the recently revamped Gateway in Mission Viejo.

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