Friday, August 10, 2007

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Triangle Square sort of lives up to it's name. I doesn't really know what it is!

I frankly have always avoided that location except when the music store was there. They also carried Laser Disks. OK, now you know, I bought into Laser Disks before DVD's came out... and yes, I had a Betamax instead of VHS initially too!

I would think that a nice green space with a fountain and a statue of George Washington would be just as useful as what is there now. It would make the whole area seem more open and less crowded, provide visibility for the stores there on Harbor. Not create any new traffic of it's own. Sure, we wouldn't have anymore tax revenue, but is that all we are going for here?

8/13/2007 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the Daily Pilot article this morning about the possibility of displacing the Lions Fish Fry at Lions Park and suddenly realized that no one is thinking outside of the box here (or triangle for that matter.) Put the Skate Park in Triangle Square where the supermarket was on the lower level! Maybe if Nike had been allowed to do that in the beginning they would still be there.

8/15/2007 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Bruce, I floated that idea a couple years ago... it seemed like a good one then. But, all the "youth" oriented businesses have bailed, replaced by gin mills and the like. Triangle Square could have been a great youth-oriented venue, with a skate facility in the basement where the markets have failed and other things, like game arcades and the theaters and now-defunct Barnes & Noble to keep the kids occupied. It could have worked. I went down into the bowels of the place and scoped it out. Ah, missed opportunities. I like the way you think! :-)

8/15/2007 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Triangle Square management was always pretty anti-kid in the past. I have many, many memories of security guards rousting teens hanging out in the main courtyard area upstairs by where Jihnny Rockets used to be.

The location is superb, the design is not. Probably the least intuitive parking in Southern California. Personally, I think it is easy - the escalators make going down a level the best, quickest way to get anywhere. Unfortunately, few people invest the time to figure it out. I can't tell you how many friends in surrounding communities balk at seeing a movie there because of the perceived parking problems. Too bad. It will be a shame to lose the theater. I like getting dinner at Chronic Taco or Yardhouse and seeing a movie there.

8/15/2007 03:32:00 PM  

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