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Putting Up The Ritz

Lyon Living, Eagle Four Plan Luxe 22-Story Ritz-Carlton Residential Tower

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Big plans are going up at Newport Center.

A 22-story Ritz-Carlton condominium tower is set to replace a portion of the Vea Newport Beach hotel, formerly the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, in a first-of-its kind project for the city.

About 30% of the hotel’s 532 rooms will be converted into luxury residences in a 295-foot-tall tower overlooking the Fashion Island shopping center.

Plans have unofficially been in the works since the end of 2020, when Eagle Four Partners, a Newport Beach-based investor with several other hospitality properties nearby, paid $216 million for the hotel, which sits on a 10-acre parcel on the western edge of Newport Center, just off Santa Barbara Drive.

Its partner in the deal is Newport Beach’s Lyon Living, the apartment investor and developer founded by the late Gen. William Lyon, which has been expanding its portfolio outside rental properties.

Lyon Living is spearheading the 2.8-acre residential portion of the project, while Eagle Four has led a renovation project that kicked off about six months ago to overhaul and rebrand the hotel into the Vea Newport Beach.

An older hotel tower will be demolished to make way for the new residential tower, which will count 159 for-sale residences.

The project won unanimous support from the city’s planning commission last month.

Amenities Galore

The hotel is about a mile from the entrance to the Newport Beach Country Club, and overlooks the golf course. The country club is one of several city holdings for Eagle Four, which also owns the Balboa Bay Resort and Balboa Bay Club.

Eagle Four added another Newport Beach hotel to its ranks early this year, paying $144 million for the Fashion Island Hotel. The property is undergoing a revamp and brand change; it will debut as the 295-room Pendry Newport Beach next year.

Irvine-based MVE Architects will design the new tower, with a look inspired by “the original vision of Fashion Island as set forth by Master Architect William Pereira,” according to city filings, as well as the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.

Burton Studios is the landscape architect.

Operations for the residences will be managed by Ritz-Carlton staff, separate from Vea staff, though the entire property will remain under the Marriott umbrella overseen by General Manager Debbie Snavely.

Amenities will include a resort-style pool and spa with lounge seating; a gym and fitness facility; locker rooms; spa treatment rooms; meeting rooms; concierge services; a billiards and library room; private food services and more.

Outdoor amenities include a private garden, a dog relief area, and walking paths through the property connecting to Newport Center Drive and the Vea hotel.

The indoor amenities will total 32,000 square feet on the ground floor, the basement and on two of the upper-level floors.

Residential units will be located between levels 2 and 22, with larger units on the upper floors. Each unit will contain a balcony.

A five-level, 408-space subterranean parking structure will be built beneath the new building under the porte-cochère and entryway.

Unveiling Vea

The luxury additions join the ongoing revamp next door at Vea, which is getting a new design with upgraded guest rooms; a saltwater pool; fitness center with a yoga studio; a 14,000-square-foot spa with 14 treatment rooms; private event lawns; and three new food and beverage options including a large Mediterranean restaurant and lounge, a coffee bar and patisserie and a poolside bar.

The removal of 30% of rooms will bring Vea’s room count to 373, placing it at No. 28 on the Business Journal’s list of largest OC hotels.

Renovations at Vea are expected to wrap this month.

“Vea was built with the expectation that the Ritz would be built at some point, so the hotel’s design, amenities and service standards will be fully complementary to the Ritz-Carlton,” Gary Sherwin, president and CEO of Visit Newport Beach, wrote in a letter of support for the project.

“Just seeing that famous logo on a sign as you drive by adds to the upscale nature of Newport Beach and will attract affluent new residents.”

Affordable Housing Fund

A city council decision last year allowed the conversion of hotel rooms to private residences as the city grapples with an ongoing lack of housing inventory, and as the hotel industry continues to get back on its feet from the pandemic.

The Ritz-Carlton project is the first in the city to take advantage of that decision.

Lyon Living and Eagle Four will pay $100,000 to the city for each residence, with 65% to be used for future affordable housing initiatives.

The new project is expected to deliver $3.3 million in transient occupancy tax next year, which will grow to nearly $6 million by 2041, according to a report by Maurice Robinson & Associates.

The developers held dozens of public outreach meetings as they worked through the entitlement process, winning the vote of confidence from residents and advocacy groups, like Still Protecting Our Newport (SPON).

“We appreciate the time that the project applicants, Kory Kramer for Eagle Four, Peter Zak for Lyon Living, and Ed Selich who has served as both planning commissioner and mayor, have invested in public outreach,” SPON President Charles Klobe said in a letter of support for the project.

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