Laguna Niguel approves plans for ‘Napa Valley-esque’ downtown neighborhood

ByShannon J. Cortes

Jun 29, 2022
Chris Payne of SRG and Bryon Ward of Burnham Ward with rendering of the new Laguna Niguel town center (Sares Regis Group, Burnham Ward Properties)

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

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

Laguna Niguel City Council has approved plans by Burnham Ward Properties and Sares Regis Group to build 275 apartments, 175,000 square feet of retail space, a new Orange County Library and a ‘green’ event plaza near of Crown Valley and Alicia walks.

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

The developers plan to innovate next year. The realization should take two or three years.

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

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

The site now houses an aging library, a closed South County Justice Center, a county maintenance yard, and abandoned parking lots.

The county owns the land, which is leased by Laguna Niguel’s downtown partners of Burnham Ward Properties and Sares-Regis Group. Bryon Ward leads the commercial and retail components of the project, while Chris Payne handles residential development for the Sares-Regis Group.

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

In 2019, the county signed a lease of up to 79 years with downtown partners Laguna Niguel after a former developer pulled out because it couldn’t reach a deal with the county. At the time, the project was estimated at $210 million.

The project required a modification of the general plan, changes of zone and modifications to the zoning code. It also required a site development permit and an environmental impact report, all completed and approved.

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

Modern ranch-style coastal architecture will feature lots of wood, steel, and stone. The buildings will appear as if they and the site have been developed over time, he said.

The 275 apartments will be divided into two buildings reflecting the landscape. the developers said. There will be pavilions, resort pools, rooftop terraces, state-of-the-art fitness centers and pet spas.

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

In January, Burnham Ward completed the sale of 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 Barthelemy