Newport Center and San Miguel Drives
Newport Beach, California

Ground was broken for Orange County's sixth shopping mall on August 20, 1965. A single-level facility was to occupy an 87 acre parcel that was part of the 93,000 acre Irvine ["ir-viyn"] Ranch. The mall site sat 47 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, in the coastal community of Newport Beach.

Renowned architect William Pereira had been commissioned in 1960 to devise a master plan for development of the area. In his prospectus, a commercial district, known as Newport Center, was to serve as the nucleus of the project. Its epicenter was to be NEWPORT CENTER (eventually renamed FASHION ISLAND) a 900,000 square foot open-air mall.

Designed predominantly by Pereira and Welton Becket & Associates, the 20 million dollar complex was developed by the Irvine Company. Its architecture was a blending of International Style and Spanish Revival.

FASHION ISLAND was dedicated on September 9, 1967. The grand opening ceremony was attended by Lieutenant Governor Robert H. Finch, William Mason (President of the Irvine Company), Carter McDonald (Vice-President of J.W. Robinson's) and Daniel O'Farrell (Manager of Fashion Island). Festivities continued into the evening with the gala "Flight To Fashion Island" champagne charity ball.

Anchoring FASHION ISLAND were a 3-level (225,000 square foot), Los Angeles-based J.W. Robinson's, 3-level (186,000 square foot) J.C. Penney and 2-level (80,000 square foot), Long Beach-based Buffums'. A 3-level (188,000 square foot) The Broadway began business September 11th.

Among the mall's fifty-two inline stores were Apropos, The Look, Karl's Toys, Jolly Roger Restaurant and Silverwood's for Men. The outparcel Edwards Newport Cinema (a 1,300 seat, single-screen venue) showed its first feature February 11, 1969. It was expanded in 1974, 1989 and 1996.

The primary retail rival of FASHION ISLAND was -and is- SOUTH COAST PLAZA (1967) {5 miles northwest, in Costa Mesa}. IRVINE SPECTRUM CENTER (1995) {7.7 miles northeast, in Irvine} was a less formidable competitor.

Two anchor department stores joined the retail roster of FASHION ISLAND during the 1970s. A 2-level (80,000 square foot), Los Angeles-based Bullock's Wilshire opened August 1, 1977, as part of a new Southwest Wing. Dallas-based Neiman Marcus built a 2-level (118,000 square foot) store, that was dedicated March 3, 1978.

By the early 1980s, studies were showing that SOUTH COAST PLAZA had gained a competitive edge over FASHION ISLAND. The Irvine Company announced a 5-year, 115 million dollar "Renaissance" makeover in April 1984.

The renovation, conceptualized by Jon Jerde, was completed in three phases. The first involved the conversion of J.C. Penney. which had been vacated in April 1982, into the 3-level, fully-enclosed Atrium Court.

On Level 1 was the Irvine Ranch Farmer's Market, with food service vendors such as the Il Fornaio Italian Bakery and Max Gourmandise. These welcomed their first customers in May 1985. Levels 2 and 3 of the Atrium Court housed trendy boutiques, such as Fiorucci Di Varese and Paul Mayer Serena d'Italia.

Twenty-eight stores opened during an official dedication, which began on November 7, 1985. Twenty more Atrium Court stores were in business by the spring of 1986. By this time, the second phase of the Renaissance renovation was underway. This added facades to some of the existing stores and replaced mallway landscaping.

Phase Three, which was concluded in late 1989, was a major reworking of the southwest section of the complex. It was reconstructed, utilizing a Mediterranean motif. Over 70,000 square feet -and sixty stores- were added, including the Island Terrace (a second Food Court) and a 4-level parking structure. The Edwards Island Cinemas 7 was dedicated October 6, 1989. It ran in conjunction with the freestanding Edwards Newport Cinemas.

Anchor alterations at FASHION ISLAND began on February 1, 1990, with the re-opening of Bullock's Wilshire as a San Francisco-based I. Magnin. Buffums' was shuttered in 1991 and subdivided into smaller stores.

Next came the rebranding of J.W. Robinson's -as Robinsons-May- on January 31, 1993. I. Magnin, shuttered in January 1995, morphed into a Bullock's Women's store in June of the same year. This eventually became the mall's first Macy's location (a Women's store). It closed in September 2006, as a result of the Federated-May merger.

On September 9, 2006, the Macy's operation at FASHION ISLAND re-opened (as a full-line store) in the Robinsons-May building. Meanwhile, in the autumn of 1996, The Broadway had been rebranded as a Bloomingdale's. The existing Neiman Marcus had a third level added in 2005, increasing its area to 153,000 square feet.

FASHION ISLAND, promoted as "Orange County's luxury coastal shopping destination", now featured nearly two hundred department stores, entertainment venues, boutiques and bistros. It encompassed 1.3 million leasable square feet and featured four parking decks.

A fourth expansion got underway in 2007. A 2-level (80,000 square foot) structure was built, adjacent to the northeast side of the Atrium Court. Its first tenant, a 1-level (44,000 square foot) Dick's Sporting Goods, was dedicated July 3, 2009.

Plans for a (23,000 square foot) flagship store for the Dean & deLuca Gourmet Grocer chain were abandoned in late 2009. However, another high-end food retailer, Whole Foods Market, assumed the space and opened for business September 19, 2012.

The old Bullock's Wilshire structure, at the southwest corner of the complex, was demolished. It was replaced by a 3-level (138,000 square foot) Nordstrom, the chain's 191st location. The store was dedicated April 16, 2010.

The latest upgrade at FASHION ISLAND involved the shuttering and renovation of the Edwards Island Cinemas 7. It closed in January 2011 and re-opened, as a stadium seating venue, on December 16 of the same year.

The Los Angeles Times / Mike Rivest
"Fashion Island" article on Wikipedia