After considering up to 50 possible expansion sites throughout south Orange County over the past several months, the Newport Harbor Art Museum has narrowed its options to four locations, museum officials said this week.
Kevin Consey, museum director, said the sites under the "strongest consideration" for an expanded facility are the museum's present Newport Center site in Newport Beach and two Irvine locales--one near the northwest end of the UC Irvine campus and the other off the San Diego Freeway near the Irvine Hilton hotel. The Irvine locations are owned by the Irvine Co.
"These are the ones that have had the most intense study," Consey said Tuesday night after the museum's preview showing of the Wayne Thiebaud retrospective.
However, he said, museum officials also are still considering a site in the Segerstrom-developed South Coast Plaza office and shopping area in Costa Mesa. "It is another prime location," Consey said. "It would be near the Performing Arts Center and South Coast Rep and has one of the best freeway accesses.
"I cannot comment on it (the South Coast Plaza sector proposal) at this time, except to say our museum is still interested in exploring that possibility."
The Laguna Museum of Art is already operating a "satellite museum" in a rent-free storefront in the South Coast Plaza mall operated by the C. J. Segerstrom & Sons development firm.
Last June, the Newport Harbor Art Museum board of trustees ordered a study by Oram Group, a New York consulting firm, to determine whether the museum could conduct a successful expansion-fund campaign at this time. Ray Johnson, museum board president, said the study should be completed by early spring.
Johnson said the expansion options under study range from "a relatively basic one" costing $5 million to a "full-scale one" with a big-name architect and a huge endowment that would cost up to $50 million.
"That (Oram) study will tell us if we can handle such a big drive at this time, even with the various Performing Arts Center drives still going on," Johnson said. "But frankly, I feel confident we can do it. We've always had some pretty terrific supporters."
The Irvine Co. announced Tuesday that it will donate $1 million over a 10-year period to underwrite major exhibitions at the Newport Harbor Art Museum. An initial gift of $100,000 is being used to underwrite the Thiebaud show.
Consey said the Irvine Co.'s $1-million contribution was not contingent on any "specific site for our expansion." He added: "Of course, the company would hope that we decide to expand in one of their locales," said Consey.
The museum's present 23,000-square-foot structure, opened in 1977, is on a two-acre parcel donated by the Irvine Co. The museum has become greatly overcrowded in exhibiting, storage and administrative spaces, officials said.
Consey said that if the museum decides to stay at the Newport Center site, it may expand on a 4 1/2-acre area adjacent to the present structure.