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Disney Plans Time-Share Resort on Newport Coast


NEWPORT BEACH — Walt Disney Co. said it will purchase 70 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Newport Coast south of Newport Beach to build its first California resort--a Mediterranean-theme village of 650 time-share condominiums, plus shops and restaurants.

The planned resort is part of the entertainment giant's strategy to build time-share townhomes near its amusement parks throughout the world. It would be built next to the Pelican Hill golf course.

Disney already has a successful 410-unit time-share project near Walt Disney World in Florida and recently announced plans to build resorts in Vero Beach, about 95 miles south of Disney World, and on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

"This coastal site fits what Disney is trying to do with its vacation villages. It doesn't have to be right next door to Disneyland," said Ray Watson, a member of Disney's board of directors and a vice chairman of the Irvine Co., which sold the first 35 acres to the Burbank-based company's Disney Vacation Development Inc.

"Hopefully, this site will be attractive to people from Missouri or Northern California who can come down here and enjoy the California coast. And yes, they can go to Disneyland, but they don't have to. The idea is vacation," Watson said.

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, local real estate brokers estimated the cost of the first 35 acres at about $25 million. Disney, in a phased purchase, has bought vacant land at Newport Coast already zoned for home development and is expected to complete purchase of the remaining 35 acres soon.

The announcement comes with Disney yet to decide whether to proceed with a proposed $3-billion expansion called the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. The company is also in meetings with its European lenders seeking more than $2 billion in refinancing for its troubled EuroDisney theme park near Paris.

The project at Newport Coast, located on one of the few remaining stretches of undeveloped ocean-view land in Southern California, must still clear federal, state and county regulatory hurdles. Officials said that they anticipate no delays and that construction is slated to begin next year. The resort could open as early as 1997.

The condominiums--studio and one-, two- and three-bedroom units--may be marketed as part of Disney Vacation Club packages, which allow members to buy time at the company's resort in Orlando and those planned in Vero Beach and Hilton Head.

The resorts will include 24-hour front-desk service and other hotel-like recreational amenities, such as tennis courts, golf courses, saunas and volleyball facilities. Irvine Co. officials predicted that Disney will work out a deal with them to give its time-share members access to the Pelican Hill golf course.

Disney said it has sold more than 9,000 time-share memberships since launching its vacation club in December, 1991. Memberships begin at $12,390.

Exactly how interests in the Newport Coast resort will be sold has not yet been determined, Disney officials said.

"It's a beautiful site, only a half-hour from Disneyland," said Beth Heller, director of development for the Disney project. "It's amazing with the huge California coastline how few opportunities there are for people to vacation with their families at beach resorts."

The Irvine Co. land purchased by Disney was originally slated for a Marriott hotel, but the hotel company could not obtain financing. As a result, local officials and residents were not greatly concerned by the announcement.

"This is in lieu of the hotel, so I don't think it will be that much different," said Jean Watt, a Newport Beach City Council member. "I hope Disney will do a good job. I hope as a developer they will do something that fits into the environment. It's such a sensitive area in terms of views. Most of the wildlife has already been evicted from that area."

Other local officials and real estate experts predicted that Disney's resort would increase Newport Beach's standing as a tourist destination.

Bob Siemon, who recently bought a custom home lot at nearby Pelican Hill, said he was pleased that he would have time-share neighbors.

"It doesn't bother me at all. I knew when I bought the land that they were planning a resort, and that's what I want to see happen," said Siemon, who is building an $8-million home on his lot. "I paid big money, and I've got the big guard gate and fences all around. I'm not bothered a bit."

Newport Coast is an exclusive development of custom lots, which typically are priced at $1 million or more for half an acre. The 9,432-acre residential and resort community features the Pelican Hill Golf Club, which is open to the public. The Irvine Co. has approval to build up to 2,150 hotel rooms and as many as 2,600 homes at Newport Coast.

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