Over the years, the non-descript city has positioned itself as the cultural hub of Orange County as a way to make up for its lack of a coast, a master planned aesthetic or sporting and entertainment options that can be found in the nearby cities of Newport Beach, Irvine and Anaheim.
It all began with South Coast Plaza, then the largest mall of its kind. The Segerstrom Center and the South Coast Repertory followed. Over the last 15 years or so, cutting edge retail, hip restaurants and bohemian bars have sprung up across the city. With the Orange County Museum of Art on the way, the city will earn its title of City of the Arts.
The past 20 years has seen hipper retail establishments come in to compliment the more staid high end retail found at South Coast Plaza. Now you can find The LAB Antimall and The Camp on Bristol Street and South Coast Collection near Harbor Boulevard and the 405. The presence of lifestyles brands such as Gotcha, Quicksilver and Volcom provided a built in audience for this hipper style of retail.
“I think right now there’s an incredible vibe here and a good sense of who we are as a town – eclectic, youthful, willing to experiment,”Costa Mesa City Manager Tom Hatch said. “I don’t think that’s always been the case; it wasn’t always relished and embraced. It has been evolving over many years.”
Henry Segerstrom, developer of South Coast Plaza, was responsible for bring higher brow art to the city with the development of Segerstrom Center next to South Coast Plaza. He was initially prodded into bringing the arts to the OC after LA Music Center opened and he didn’t want Los Angeles to monopolize the arts in Southern California.