Fashion Island Marks 45-year Anniversary

Some people in their mid-40s talk about wanting to look great for their age, with a little help from cosmetic surgery and a brand new, contemporary wardrobe. The same might be said for Fashion Island, which is marking its 45th anniversary in Newport Beach this year with the completion of its $100 million makeover and a slew of recent and upcoming store and restaurant openings.

Calling it the continuation of a renaissance, Fashion Island management announced that it would add 22,000 square feet of retail space over the next year and a half and bring exclusive or unique tenants to Orange County. With the inclusion of new tenants, the shopping center will be more than 90 percent occupied.

“Our vision for Fashion Island was to attract customers with unique and boutique-type of retailers and a mix of restaurants that also are unique and compelling,” said Dan Sheridan, President of Irvine Company Retail Properties, which owns and operates the shopping center. The new stores will be a mix of multi-line retailers as well as single-brand shops.

The shopping center will add two to three restaurants to its growing collection of eateries, according to Sheridan. Since the shopping center began its renovation in 2009, restaurants that have debuted there include Native Foods Café, Great Maple and True Food Kitchen.

New York-based Fig & Olive is slated to open its second Southern California location in 2013 in a new standalone building in the south side of Fashion Island. The restaurant, which has locations in New York and in West Hollywood, will be exclusive in Orange County to Fashion Island. Read more about Fig & Olive from Fast Food Maven.

‘lette, a Beverly Hills purveyor of handmade macarons will open its first O.C. outpost soon a few doors away from Nordstrom.

Whole Foods Market, the high-end grocery chain that touts goods that are natural, organic or artisanal will debut in the fall in the space originally slated back in 2009 for Dean & Deluca, which scrapped its plans to go west.

Fashion Island executives looked for and found what they needed in New York and Los Angeles. Exclusive boutiques coming to Fashion Island include two from Los Angeles, M. Fredric and Joie and two from New York, C. Wonder and Roberta Roller Rabbit.

M. Fredric, a multi-line retailer of contemporary labels, will occupy a 4,400 sq. ft. space near American Rag Cie.

Joie is single brand boutique with Southern California casual meets Paris chic collections designed by Serge Azria. The Fashion Island store, which will be between Vince and Bose, will be the third for Joie, after shops in Paris and New York.

Roberta Roller Rabbit is a boutique known for clothing, accessories and home décor with colorful and sometimes whimsical hand-blocked prints created by designer Roberta Freymann with artisans in India. Freymann’s boutique will be located next to Restoration Hardware in Atrium Court near the Atrium lawn.

C. Wonder, launched by J. Christopher Burch, is known for bright and colorful signature upscale accessories, personal monogramming, home décor and clothing that are moderately priced.

“Fashion Island for us was a great choice because of our location,” said Daniela Maron, spokeswoman for C. Wonder. “We liked the layout and that it was outdoors. Fashion Island is also a very family-friendly mall without being too juvenile. Fashion Island strikes that perfect balance between a shopping mall and a lifestyle destination and this balance is very much in line with C. Wonder, which has fashion – apparel and accessories and lifestyle – home and surprises.”

In keeping with the Mediterranean-themed signature of several other Irvine Company properties such as the Resort at Pelican Hill, Fashion Island was renovated over two years to give it an Italian-inspired look. A carousel and a fountain frequented by kids were removed and large water features were added elsewhere: A large fountain with a 45-foot tall granite obelisk inspired by the Fountain of Four Rivers in Rome’s Piazza Navona was installed in a newly landscaped plaza near Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s while a 24-foot water wall was placed near Dick’s Sporting Goods.

The theaters – Island Cinema – were upgraded to create a high-end moviegoing experience, from leather seats with more leg room to a menu that includes sparkling wine, artisanal sandwiches and handscooped ice cream to a concierge for assistance in dinner reservations.

“It’s hard to argue with what they have done,” said Greg Stoffel, retail analyst and principal at Irvine-based Stoffel & Associates. “Customers appear to enjoy the center very much.”

The makeover is a positive move for Fashion Island, according to another analyst. “Any reinvestment is good because it’s going to get people excited about going to new stores,” said Summer Taylor, Costa Mesa-based senior manager in the retail and consumer products division at Deloitte. “The Irvine Company certainly timed it right and took advantage of the construction deals during the downturn and positioned the shopping center well as consumers spend money again.”

The upscale but eclectic tenant juxtaposition is intriguing, particularly the opening of the showroom for Tesla luxury electric cars several months ago, she said. The auto dealership is another exclusive for Fashion Island. “The Tesla showroom is an interesting addition especially because Orange County is becoming a place known for green technology,” Taylor said.

Differentiating itself from other shopping centers not just in physical appearance but also in its choice of tenants is important for Fashion Island to continue doing to be successful, analysts said.

“Exclusives are even more important today,” Stoffel said. “So many centers look and feel alike. For example, Brea Mall and the Shops at Mission Viejo have very similar tenant mixes. Look at a list of the tenants and you’d have a hard time telling them apart. It is absolutely imperative that premium centers such as Fashion Island keep their mix as unique as possible. The combination of unique stores and the unique environment serve to create a larger trade area. In simple terms, this ultimately equates to higher sales potential.”