Festival of Arts officials want to renovate the exterior façade and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment at the Laguna Canyon Road property. The project is estimated to cost $2 million, according to festival officials. (Bauer Architects / December 5, 2013)

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Festival of Arts officials want to spruce up their front yard, so to speak, with a revamped facade and landscaping.

Festival board President Fred Sattler repeated the words "old" and "tired' when describing the facility's exterior facade, which needs an upgrade, he said.

Sattler presented preliminary designs for a revamped exterior with landscaping and a more welcoming pedestrian environment at the festival's annual meeting in November.

The festival is home to a summer fine art exhibit and the Pageant of the Masters, a 90-minute stage show of "living pictures" — art re-creations of classical and contemporary works with real people posing to look like their counterparts in the original pieces.

He explained the proposed project for the property at 650 Laguna Canyon Road in further detail during a phone conversation Monday.

The current entrance was designed 12 years ago and was supposed to be temporary, Sattler said.

"It looks old and tired," Sattler said. "We also recognized an area currently used for parking is also old. We want to make the whole area friendly to pedestrians."

Sattler gave an example of a design where visitors won't need to step off a curb onto the ground below.

The idea is to create a more beautiful entry into the festival, from the administration building to the parking area, that blends into the canyon's natural surroundings while incorporating California native plants.

"We're still looking at things, but the thought is to put sycamores, oaks and native grasses," Sattler said.

Festival staff retained Newport Beach-based Bauer Architects to lead the design.

Bauer focuses on environmental sustainability and energy-conscious designs, according to the firm's website.

The proposal maintains the current number of parking spots, 16, closest to Laguna Canyon Road, Sattler said.

The festival has enough money saved to pay for the project's estimated $2-million price tag, according to Sattler. Festival officials began discussing the project several years ago, he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson hopes the city will collaborate with the festival on a design that could complement future plans at the proposed Village Entrance, a development project that included a parking structure at one point.

"I like it all," Pearson said of the proposal. "[The festival] has hired a first-class designer. It might be efficient to buy light fixtures that match on both sides of the road."

The City Council voted to discard the parking structure from the proposed Village Entrance at a special workshop Nov. 12, but left open the possibility of a landscaped pathway near the corner of Laguna Canyon Road and Forest Avenue.

The festival sits on Laguna Canyon across from the Forest Avenue parking lot.

"When we discuss the Village Entrance, obviously there's always talk about beautifying the area," Pearson said. "Wouldn't it be a great idea if we work with their landscape designer? This is why I encouraged the city to buy land [a 3.8-acre parcel at 725 Laguna Canyon Road, which is on the same side of the road as Art-A-Fair and the Sawdust Art Festival]."

The City Council would need to give city staff the go-ahead to ask festival staff members if they would like to collaborate with the city on beautification plans at a public meeting, Pearson said.

Sattler hopes for consistency too.

"We're more than happy to have the city look at what we're doing and determining where it's appropriate [for the city] to mirror or emulate," Sattler said. "There should be a relationship between two sides of the street [Laguna Canyon Road].

"It's hard to talk about this. The city is one entity and we're another entity, but we want to be cooperative."

The next step will involve submitting design plans to the city's planning department, which Sattler hopes will be in January, followed by a Planning Commission public hearing, he said.

"We want something that's tasteful, something that speaks to what the festival is, how long the festival has been here, while adding to the aesthetics of arrival into the city," Sattler said.