‘Taj Mahal of Newport’ begins big reveal



If all goes as planned, City Councilman Steven Rosansky will get his wish to deliver his farewell speech at the Newport Beach Civic Center.

For the past decade, the project has been the subject of fierce debate – over the cost, which soared from an architect’s construction estimate of $60 million in 2008 to $131.4 million today including design work, and the sheer scope of the design, which some have dubbed the Taj Mahal.

Rosansky says he’s determined to have his last meeting as a councilman there, “even if it means doing it with a card table and seven chairs.”

That won’t be necessary. While construction on the Civic Center project is still under way, the council chambers are expected to be ready for the Dec. 11 meeting.

Graphic: Newport Beach’s new civic center

The project – with a wave-shaped roof and several lookout points with ocean views – make it unique to Newport and much more than a City Hall, said City Manager Dave Kiff.

Designed by an innovative architect, the building will have state-of-the-art green features that take advantage of the ocean breezes and mild temperatures to save energy.

The Civic Center also will house a library, a parking garage, two parks including a dog park and bridges overlooking wetlands. A pedestrian bridge over San Miguel Drive, now under construction, will link two large parks.

Rosansky sees it as a great unifier.

“It seems as if we all live on our own islands in this city – Balboa Island, Lido Isle, Linda Isle, Newport Coast, Corona del Mar,” he said. “This is one thing that brings us all together. It is a Civic Center we can all use. We’ve created something really special here.”


2001: Analysis of the aging City Hall on Newport Boulevard finds it had serious problems, especially lack of workspace.

2002-07: Residents debate funding and location for a new City Hall. One estimate is$48 million to rebuild at current site.

February 2008: Voters approve Measure B, which designates the city-owned land on Avocado Avenue as the new City Hall site.

November 2008: City Council selects architectural firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to design City Hall, a park and a 450-space parking structure. Architect’s estimated cost of construction: $60 million

November 2009: City Council approves revised design: added 17,000-square-foot library expansion; emergency operations center; larger City Hall; lusher landscaping; doubled size of community auditorium; new dog park. Low-end construction cost estimate: $105 million

April 2010: Total cost-estimate $130 million, includes design, furnishings, environmental studies, construction management

May 2010: Groundbreaking and land excavation begins

November 2010: City Council approves bonds to finance the Civic Center project. Total bonds sold: $128 million

February 2011: City Council approves contract for City Hall, library expansion and park construction. Revised estimate: $131 million

– Mike Reicher



“The expense for this project is significant, there is no question about that. But this is a beautiful, state-of-the-art building that is going to serve the citizens of Newport Beach for a very long time. This is a facility of which we are all going to be extremely proud.”

– Dave Kiff, city manager

“The cost for this project is absolutely justified because of what we get in return. This is not just one or two city hall buildings. We are talking about a Civic Center that unifies our entire city into one community.

– Steve Rosansky, City Councilman


“Spending so much money on a Civic Center with extravagant design features during these financial times is unwarranted for a city. As a Republican town, Newport Beach residents are not in favor of government spending. It is interesting that the city on the one hand says it has enough money to spend on this project, but on the other hand, increases tideland fees.”

– John Heffernan, former councilman

“I feel confident that it is an excessive cost. That land was given to the city as open space by the Irvine Company since it was considered as unbuildable land. In my opinion, the city has wasted a lot of money there. It could have been put somewhere less expensive.”

– Allan Beek, former council candidate and longtime resident

Contact the writer: 714-796-7909 or [email protected]



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