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FOCUS : South Coast Metro: Where You Can Shop and Drop

November 16, 1989|Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Scott Brown and Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Some day, perhaps, a dictionary will be printed that will have a picture of South Coast Plaza next to its definition of the word mall .

Development of Costa Mesa's South Coast Metro area began in 1967 with the construction of South Coast Plaza. The land, owned by the C.J. Segerstrom family, was once the world's most productive lima bean farm. The Segerstroms, who had migrated to Orange County at the turn of the century and become prosperous farmers, realized, though, that their land was far too valuable for plows and furrows.

The family made the decision to emphasize development rather than farming on its land, and the rest is shopping history. Today South Coast Plaza, easily the largest-grossing shopping area in the county, is on the itinerary of tourists.

Next came the Town Center complex, a cluster of office buildings, restaurants and theaters across Bristol Street from South Coast Plaza. Each summer the Town Center holds lunchtime concerts for the public. And every September it hosts Arts On the Green with festivities including live music, dancing and artwork from all over the county. Later this month, on the Monday after Thanksgiving, the Center will have its Christmas tree lighting ceremony to help launch the holiday season.

An expansion of Town Center has been approved, bringing the entire complex to 3 million square feet. To be built are a 20- or 21-story office building (436,000 square feet) and a 200-room hotel (197,000 square feet). According to John Avery, project manager for C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, the company is aiming to begin building in April or May with a completion date of November, 1991. The operation is now in the design stages.

Development of the South Coast Metro neighborhood has not proceeded unrestricted, however. Just north of the San Diego Freeway between Fairview Road and Harbor Boulevard is the site of Segerstrom & Sons' 98-acre Home Ranch development. Fully built, it will total 3.1 million square feet of mixed commercial uses. But the plan fell afoul of resident opposition, which objected on grounds that it would clog city streets, add to pollution and change the residential nature of northern Costa Mesa. Segerstrom & Sons submitted a reduced-format version of the project, but both were defeated at the polls in separate referendums last November. Building has come to a halt and no new plans have been submitted.

South Coast Metro is also the hub of county cultural activities. South Coast Repertory performs from early September through the end of July, and brings to audiences 12 productions per season. According to spokesman Cristofer Gross, three-quarters of the shows are new plays, the rest classics.

The dominant feature of the performing arts community, however, is the Performing Arts Center, which opened in 1986 on land donated by the Segerstrom family. The Center has had more than 1.5 million visitors.

All this is not to say, though, that the South Coast Metro area is only a mecca for merchants and the entertainment-starved. For as it has grown commercially, the neighborhood's population has exploded. During the 1980s it has grown nearly 48% while the rest of the county grew by 19%. And, not surprisingly, it is an affluent population. The neighborhood's median household income of $62,206 is 50% higher than the county as a whole. One household in three has an income in excess of $75,000.

All the new residents and the influx of businesses bring major traffic headaches, though. In fact, traffic has quadrupled during the last five years according to the city's Development Services Department.

The most congested intersection in the neighborhood, says John Lower, transportation services manager for the city, is at Fairview Road and Baker Street. At rush hour, between 4 and 6 p.m., the honors go to Bristol Street and Anton Boulevard. Beginning next year and by the year 2010, the city plans to make at least 12 improvements on heavily traveled intersections.

This is home to the determined shopper. New York City has its 5th Avenue and Beverly Hills its Rodeo Drive. Boston shoppers flock to Newbury Street, Chicagoans to Michigan Avenue and Philadelphians to Walnut Street. To that list you can add the South Coast Metro area, one of the major shopping magnets of the world.

Population Total: (1989 est.) 4,196 1980-89 change: +47.7% Median Age: 38.3

Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino): 85% Other: 8% Latino: 7% Black: less than 1%

By sex and age: MALES Median age: 37.1 years FEMALES Median age: 39.1 years

Income Per capita: $23,235 Median household: $62,206 Average household: $66,437

Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 7% $25,000-49,000: 27% $50,000-74,999: 33% $75,000-$99,999: 19% $100,000 and more: 14%

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