Located on a high bluff overlooking Newport Harbor in Newport Beach, Newport Center is a business, shopping and entertainment district referred that is home to Fashion Island. Created as the unofficial “downtown” of Irvine Ranch, Newport Center was designed as part of a joint venture between William Pereira and Welton Becket.
The History of Newport Center
The site where Newport Center is located was once used for the 1953 National Scout Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America. The first jamboree of its kind to be held west of the Mississippi River, the 1953 National Scout Jamboree hosted 50,000 scouts from all 50 States and from 16 foreign countries. The site was also one of the first to be considered for Disneyland.
While not much is known about the early history of the site, a considerable amount of petrified wood was found at the site during excavation for the first buildings. This indicates a small forest once existed in the area. These first buildings went up in 1967, with most of the center’s buildings being constructed in the 1970s. While the overall design of the center placed an emphasis on International Style architecture, the futurist Pacific Mutual Building was added in 1972. This went on to become one of Newport Beach’s most well-known architectural landmarks.
Exploring Newport Center
Newport Center is situated within a large city block between Jamboree, MacArthur and San Joaquin Hills roads and the Pacific Coast Highway. A circular road called Newport Center Drive is located in the center of the block, while high-rise buildings encircle the outside edge of the road. Several businesses are located along this road, including:
• Acacia Research Corporation
• Irvine Company
• Janus Capital Group
• Pacific Life
• Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth
Newport Center Drive can be accessed by five outside roads, each of which is named after an island within the Channel Islands of California. These roads split the center into “superblocks” that are built and leased as separate properties. Meanwhile, Fashion Island is located in the center of the circle. Owned by The Irvine Company, Fashion Island is an open-air lifestyle center that opened in 1967. At the time it was open, the center featured Buffman’s, The Broadway, J.W. Robinson’s and J.C. Penney, the buildings for which were designed by William Pereira and Welton Becket. The Spanish architectural theme has gone on to define the property.
Since the time when Fashion Island first opened, Bullocks Wilshire was renamed I.Magnin and Neiman Marcus was added. J.C. Penney also moved out, after which the building was reconstructed and reopened as Atrium Court. The building went on to contain numerous smaller shops as well as a food court on the lower level.
In addition to being home to numerous stores, a large Christmas tree can also be found at Fashion Island every year. Located in the large courtyard outside of the Bloomingdale’s building, the tree is lit about a week before Christmas, an occasion that is preceded by extravagant holiday performances. Trees are taken from a private timber area near Mount Shasta and shipped to Fashion Island in several pieces. They are then reassembled using steel rods and a large crane.