The real estate company of a Newport Beach family has purchased the Balboa Fun Zone, saying it plans to bring the landmark back to its glory days.
The sale to Chartwell Real Estate Development was announced this week by the Discovery Cube, a nonprofit science center in Orange County that had run its Ocean Quest center out of the property it acquired in 2017 until the pandemic forced the doors to close.
Henry Pyle, operating partner of Chartwell, handled the acquisition on behalf of the Pyle family, which has been in Newport Beach since the 1960s.
“Our vision is to continue to operate the property as a ‘fun zone’ with an arcade, shops and restaurant,” Pyle said of the 80-year-old landmark. The company’s investments typically are long-term, multigenerational, family investments, he said.
The block-long Balboa Fun Zone property in Newport Harbor is bordered by the Balboa Island Ferry dock on one side and a marina on the other.
The purchase falls perfectly in line with his company’s interests, Pyle said, adding that Chartwell looks for iconic properties that are irreplaceable.
Three generations of the family had enjoyed the Fun Zone, an attraction you just don’t see these days, he said. “The Fun Zone is as irreplaceable as it gets for our family.”
He said the family wants to restore the historic property, but specific work hasn’t been determined. Pyle said the family will work with the city of Newport Beach, but there is no timeline.
The Discovery Cube, which put the property up for sale in December, said in a statement it was fortunate to find Chartwell.
“The Pyle Family, who values the historic elements, are focused on bringing new life to this iconic local landmark,” Joe Adams, CEO of Discovery Cube, said.
The Discovery Cube had turned a previous nautical museum that opened in 2005 into its Ocean Quest center, a marine-science education facility that included exhibits, educational programs and ocean science boat tours.
The Discovery Cube announced plans to sell the property in December because of the financial impacts of the pandemic’s protracted shutdowns.
Adams had said at the time the decision to sell the property – which is also home to a handful of eateries – was not made lightly or quickly. The board tried to secure funding options from private and public sectors as the shutdown and lack of visiting school groups wreaked havoc on its budget, but ultimately decided selling the property would be the most prudent.
Under the sales agreement, the museum’s education vessel, the Dylan Ayres, will remain docked at the property for the time being. The Discovery Cube expects to offer educational voyages starting again this fall.
The vendors that lease space in the Fun Zone are on month-to-month leasing. The Fun Zone Ferris Wheel, which has a longer-term lease, is not expected to change.
Who bought Balboa Fun Zone?
Chartwell Real Estate Development bought Balboa Fun Zone
Who owns the Balboa Pavilion?
The Balboa Pavilion, one of Newport Beach’s most recognizable landmarks, has been sold. The famed Balboa Peninsula building was purchased by a Newport Beach landlord who described his interest in the pavilion as a “labor of love.” Leo Gugasian and his son, Armen, purchased the building from the Balboa Pavilion Co