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Fashion Island marks 45-year anniversary

The open-air shopping destination continues to set the pace for Orange County's fashion scene

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: April 10, 2012 03:05 PM

Newport Beach’s Fashion Island, an iconic open-air retail plaza and shopping destination, celebrates its 45th year at the forefront of Southern California fashion this year, while continuing to mark new store and restaurant openings.

The original Fashion Island opened in 1967 with just four department stores –– Buffum’s J.W. Robinson’s, The Broadway and J.C. Penney. Among these stores, J.W. Robinson’s –– which, due to the company’s merger with the May Company, had become Robinson’s-May –– was the last to leave the mall, when it was converted to a Macy’s store in 2006.

Over the years, the upscale shopping center has had a series of expansions and renovations; the Island Terrace Food Court and movie theater were added in 1988.

Today, the 35-acre shopping center is anchored by five department stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, and is home to dozens of restaurants, specialty retail stores and lifestyle brands, many of them Southern California and West Coast-exclusive locations. The Island Cinema at Fashion Island debuted late last year, following a yearlong renovation. The movie theater now features large armchair-style seats, seat-side wait service, reserved seating, expanded dining options and a beverage list that includes beer, wine and champagne.

Since 2010, Fashion Island has opened more than 40 new stores and restaurants, with more retailers and eateries set to debut over the next 18 months. This fall, the center is set to open a Whole Foods Market, its first grocery store (the Atrium Court once held a farmer’s market).

“Fashion Island has seen increased leasing momentum over the past 18 months as demonstrated by the significant number of brand-name tenants that have chosen Fashion Island as their exclusive Southern California location,” said Dan Sheridan, president of Irvine Company Retail Properties. “The additional square footage will allow us to meet the increasing demand from new tenants.”

The latest establishment to sign a lease agreement at the shopping center is FIG & OLIVE, a Mediterranean restaurant focusing on ‘genuine ingredients’, offering dishes made with the best olive oils and fresh herbs, and an impressive wine list.    Set to open next year, the Newport Beach FIG & OLIVE, headed by executive chef Pascal Lorange, will be the second West Coast location for the New York-based restaurant, following a Melrose Park address.

“At FIG & OLIVE, I want to highlight our menu’s core ingredient of olive oil, which we use in place of butter in our dishes. Our cuisine, along with an elegant white, green and terra-cotta décor immerse our guests into the essence of the French town of Mougins in which I grew up,” said Laurent Halasz, FIG & OLIVE’s founder. “I believe Fashion Island’s premier coastal location and Mediterranean climate in the heart of Newport Beach, together with its commitment to bringing its sophisticated yet relaxed clientele a variety of unique culinary experiences, will be a natural fit for my restaurant.”

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