Blockbuster building being torn down, photo by Lola Singer

The Old Blockbuster Building, a Crony Deal for a False Cause

So you know the Blockbuster building that was recently a Wachovia Bank at the West end of the Balboa Peninsula? Did you know that this is in the process of being torn down?  Everyone says it will “increase parking”– but will it?

The building itself was highly controversial, with some seeing it as one of the peninsula’s most unique and beautiful structures, and others seeing it as simply blight.  Much of the reason that people saw it as blight was surely that it had remained vacant for such a long period of time– but that wasn’t because nobody wanted the building!

In fact, I inquired two separate times over the span of several years to see how much they wanted to for the building, all in an effort to bring my office’s headquarters a bit closer to home.  Both times they wanted multiple times the going market rate for the area.  Both times, I asked if it was negotiable, and both times was told “not too negotiable”.

Strange.  Why would a building that was vacant for so many years be billed out so much with little room for negotiation?  With so few parking spaces and yet so much office space there, retail options are very limited– making banks, software development companies (like mine!), and perhaps a very small retail market the only viable solutions for such a property.

In 2014, it all made sense, when the City of Newport Beach purchased the property for $6.35 million– 35% more than what it last sold for ($4.8m) at the top of the market (in 2007– before the crash), and 3.35 TIMES more than the County Assessor said it was worth $1,970,057 on the very year of its purchase.  Not a bad deal for the property owner!  The taxpayers, though, were the ones that really got sold in this deal.

A contract was then issued for $3.9 million GMC Engineering Inc (in Tustin) to demo the building, build a new parking lot, cut the corner off for an easy right-hand-turn lane (which is completely unnecessary) and eliminate all the on-street parking in exchange for a bike lane (when there is a perfectly good un-used sidewalk with no frontage directly across the street, or the boardwalk just two blocks over).

After the project is completed, the lot will feature 32 spaces while also eliminating the alleyway access way to the Finley neighborhoods (one of just three entrance points for that huge area).  Finally, once you account for the lost street parking in exchange for the bike lanes, this $10.25m project which destroyed one of our most iconic buildings will have actually created a NET LOSS of two parking spots in the area while creating fewer entrances for the Finley residential tract, as we have a net gain of 7 stalls on the property but lose 9 stalls on Newport Blvd.

While it is too late to turn back now, this goes to show the inconsiderate executions on both our financials and the practical building of our parking spots that were happening under the previous council.  Let’s hope we don’t see this type of debacle again.

You will be missed, ye ol’ Blockbuster building!

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About Mike Glenn

Mike is the founder and publisher of Save Newport, owner of the software company Devion, the VP of Newport Beach's Republican Assembly, Chair of Government Relations for the Elks Lodge, an outspoken taxpayer advocate, and a sworn alternate voter for the Orange County GOP. He writes, shoots photos, and edits, but much of the time, he's just "the IT guy". He can be reached at: Google+, Facebook, or via email, at michael.glenn@devion.com