Triangle Square Resurrected - Again?
The local media is all a'twitter with reports that the most recent ownership consortium - in a long line of owners - of Costa Mesa's municipal oxymoronic white elephant, Triangle Square, is all ready to present to the city a plan for the revitalization of this near-dead shopping mall. It's about time! This thing has been brought back from the grave way too many times, only to resume the dying cockroach position because of misguided management and/or a lack of action on the part of the ownership.
Those of us who have lived in this town for awhile recall that this was the first big redevelopment project - one that promised a wonderful shopping venue in a rehabilitated downtown. It was to be anchored by major retailers and have a market in the lower reaches - a plan that turned out to be a disaster. Few women returned to the market, even though the vendors changed a couple times. They were uncomfortable about the dark, dank parking venue and just plain afraid to go back.
BUSINESSES BAIL OUT
Ownership changed again and again but there never seemed to be a clear vision for the mall. In the past couple years the major anchor retailers - Niketown, Virgin Megastore and Barnes and Nobel Booksellers - all bailed out. Other smaller, yet prestigious, retailers like North Face had pulled out earlier. The family-oriented shops and restaurants left and the Edwards theaters have limped along, probably not making enough to cover their overhead. According to the reports, the mall is only 40% occupied now.
UNDERMINING THE PLANS?
So, as I read the media accounts of this latest plan I found myself with more than a few questions. For example, how does the Great Tunnel that Mayor Mansoor and his majority are proposing to bore under Newport Blvd. from the terminus of the 55 Freeway to the Newport Beach city limits to take most of those 100,000 cars each day that pass the intersection of Newport Blvd. and 19th Street underground figure in the plans of the Triangle Square ownership? Are the businesses they hope to locate in their building going to be dependent on those potential shoppers? If so, is the plan viable without them?
The rendering provided showed no bridge across Newport Blvd. If bridges were built - similar to the bridges that link South Coast Plaza across Bear Street and Bristol Street - to span both Harbor and Newport Blvd. from Triangle Square to the adjacent shopping areas, it might eliminate concerns about the traffic problems.
DRUNKS AND ROWDIES?
What kind of businesses are going to be compatible with the current mix of businesses located there? These include three gin mills, one of which apparently has one of the highest calls-for-service rates by the Costa Mesa Police Department.
The new owners plan 120 dwelling units, a few of which will be live/work units. I find myself wondering just who will live in this place. Certainly, no families with children will choose to try to raise them in a cramped place with no area to play, surrounded by three of the busiest streets in Orange County. It seems likely that the residents will be single people or childless couples.
RENT OR OWN?
And, are these proposed to be rental units or owner-occupied condos? The location seems perfect for apartments, except our city leaders say they want to reverse the upside-down renter vs. owner ratio in our city. It will be very interesting to see how this shakes down.
Also, adding 120 residential units - which will likely dump 200-300 trips per day out onto Newport, Harbor and/or 19th Street - will only exacerbate the pending traffic snarl to be created by the nearly-complete 147 units at the 1901 Newport Plaza condo development across the street. What's the plan for this additional traffic at one of Orange County's busiest intersections?
Another interesting sidebar of this process will be the position the mayor takes. He and his cronies were highly critical of Mike Scheafer and Bruce Garlich for their position on the aforementioned condo development during the campaign last year. Will they support this project at Triangle Square when they feigned such opposition to a similar development? Or, was all that rhetoric last year pure politics? I'll bet we can guess the answer to that one.
SMART ENOUGH TO MAKE IT WORK?
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for a change at Triangle Square to finally make it the thriving entity once anticipated when it was conceived almost 20 years ago. If the new ownership can pull this off, Triangle Square could become the perfect gateway to a revitalized Westside - something most Costa Mesa voters hope for. What remains to be seen is whether our current city leadership is smart enough to figure a way to make this work. Keep your fingers crossed, but don't hold your breath.