Festival Facelift Could Influence City Entrance

A rendering of the envisioned facelift for the Festival of Arts.
A rendering of the envisioned facelift for the Festival of Arts.

If all goes according to plan, the Festival of Arts’ facade may receive a $2 million makeover as early as next fall, according to board president Fred Sattler, who described planned renovations at the festival’s annual membership meeting last week, saying that the “time has come for a new frontage where aesthetics meet function.”

The area marked for improvements spans the entire front of the festival grounds from the service entrance by the tennis courts to the box office and administrative building. Anticipated renovations include a serpentine walkway, enhanced landscaping, a more identifiable entry and signage during the season.

The preview plans came just a day after the Laguna Beach City Council agreed to scale back its own plans for a village entrance and facelift on property opposite the festival, at the corner of Forest Avenue  and Broadway Street. In fact, Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson said at the time that city planners should “look on both sides of the street” as they consider the newly configured entrance going forward.

“It occurred to me, about the time I recommended to the City Council that we consider purchase of the 725 Laguna Canyon Road property for parking replacement, that a ‘newly imagined’ village entrance project could encompass both sides of Laguna Canyon Road,” said Pearson, reached for comment this week by e-mail. She believes the two projects could achieve a cohesive entryway by mirroring landscaping and lighting elements, materials and promenade surfaces, and embellishments such as benches.

“The Festival of Arts is way ahead of us,” admitted Pearson, but “why not see what they’re planning and collaborate? It could be very exciting.”

Indeed, though the festival’s project is still in the conceptual stage, Sattler believes that “it’s something the board can coalesce around.” And while some modifications to the project can be expected along the way, festival officials hope to obtain Planning Commission review and City Council approval in time to begin construction early next fall, after the 2014 summer festival ends, he said.

The dual-purpose plan should improve function as well as aesthetics, said Sattler. Festival leaders envision a more pedestrian-friendly and attractive entrance by shifting its orientation, allowing patrons entry at the center of the grounds rather than near the restrooms as it is currently configured. “I think the whole thing will be a heck of a lot better,” said Sattler, who emphasized that the new facade, while accommodating flexible signage for changing show themes, will “still look good in the off-season.”

The festival retained Newport Beach-based architect Jay Bauer, who retained San Diego’s landscape architects Spurlock & Poirier.

As for coordinating with city plans, Sattler said that the festival’s design choices for hardscape and landscape will harmonize equally well for “where we are, across the street and even farther up the canyon.” Their plan’s use of sycamores and live oaks, as well as native plants, ties into the canyon’s aesthetic as well as minimizing the need for water and maintenance, he said.

“We are terribly excited about this,” said Sattler, who noted that the festival have the funds on hand, estimated at $2 million, to complete the project.

“I think the timing is perfect to pull our respective goals and plans together for something that could be quite special as we look toward the improvements at the gateway of our city,” said Pearson.

In other business, festival treasurer Anita Mangels reported the “best year ever for Pageant revenues.” The festival netted $1.1 million, she said, based on unaudited total revenue of $9.5 million and expenses of $8.4 million for 2013. The festival’s current net assets total $12.6 million, she said.

Pageant Director Diane Challis Davy solved an annual mystery by revealing next year’s theme for the Pageant of the Masters: “The Art Detective.” She promised that “…through the art of storytelling, we’ll shed light on true and sensational art history.”

Of the festival’s members, 574 cast votes for board members, re-electing incumbents Fred Sattler, David Perry, and Ann Webster. Two challengers were defeated.  Tammie Arnold, Wayne Baglin, Pat Kollenda, Tom Lamb, Anita Mangels and Bob Moffett, who complete the nine-member board, did not face election. Officers for the coming year are Sattler as president, Perry as vice president, Pat Kollenda as secretary and Mangels as treasurer.

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