California’s Orange County, while part of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, is nonetheless a distinct real estate market with its own unique characteristics.
Home to more than 3 million people, it’s long been considered a classic American suburb and a bedroom community for Los Angeles County, which it borders. However, based on figures from the 2010 Census, its population density of 3.254 people per square mile ranks it as the second-most densely populated county in California behind San Francisco, according to USA.com. (Los Angeles is third.)
The best description of Orange County is “surban,” defined in a January 2017 article in the Orange County Register as “the convenience of urban amenities in more affordable, suburban settings.” A tour of three new developments in the heart of Orange County as part of CRE.Converge 2019 demonstrates what “surban” looks like on the ground in this dynamic region.
Great Park Irvine
Great Park Irvine is a 1,300-acre mixed-use development located in the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro that integrates recreational and competitive sports facilities, parkland and more.
“The Great Park is one of the larger land redevelopment projects in Orange County,” said Steve Pearson, executive vice president/principal with DAUM Commercial Real Estate in Newport Beach, California. He led the NAIOP tour of Orange County.
Marine Corps Air Station El Toro closed in July 1999, and it took several years for the concept of Great Park to emerge.
“Politically, debates went back and forth,” Pearson said. “Does it become a new international airport? Does it become a business park?”
Finally, in 2005, Lennar Corp. bought the land for Great Park from the U.S. Navy for $650 million. Acclaimed landscape architect Ken Smith was hired to create a master plan for Great Park, which was unveiled in 2006.
“The project emphasizes sustainability at a large scale, making social spaces that promote community and health, connections to regional identity, and a sense of history,” according to a statement on the Ken Smith Workshop website.
Development was slow for about a decade, but took off in 2017. Developer FivePoint envisions about 10,000 homes and about 5 million square feet of commercial space, including a town center with restaurants and retail. So far, about half of the homes and about a quarter of the commercial properties have been build, according to a January 2019 article from the Orange County Register.
Great Park already has a huge recreation component thanks to a public-private partnership with the City of Irvine. In addition to parks, it features more than two dozen soccer fields, 25 tennis courts and 10 ballfields for baseball and softball.
But the signature facility is Great Park Ice & FivePoint Arena, a $110 million, 280,000-square-foot ice and sports facility that is the new training facility for the Anaheim Ducks National Hockey League team. It has four indoor ice rinks — three NHL regulation rinks and one Olympic regulation rink — and is envisioned as a national training center for Olympic skating hopefuls.
The Boardwalk is an office complex located in Newport Beach. Trammell Crow developed the LEED Gold 550,000-square-foot Class A office campus that was built on spec between early 2016 and fall 2017.
The Boardwalk is in the heart of Orange County’s Central Business District. Gensler designed the nine-story project in two towers that are connected by signature bridgeways. Outdoor terraces and open-air features are spread across two acres of landscaped open space, plus 7,000 square feet of restaurant and retail. The building features include floor-to-ceiling high-performance glass, ceiling heights over 10 feet, destination dispatch elevators, and a parking ratio of 5.0 per 1,000. The building’s large floor plates can be connected to provide blocks of contiguous space exceeding 60,000 square feet.
The building has impressive amenities to match its architectural heft, an important consideration for attracting top talent in a competitive labor market.
“We’ve been growing the amenity base and tailoring it to our tenants,” said Christopher Tipre, senior vice president for Trammell Crow’s Southern California Business Unit in Newport Beach, California. “It’s been a lot of work and it’s been a lot of fun trying to come up with what people want and need.”
The Boardwalk offers a dedicated concierge service, fitness classes, bike racks and rentals, an on-site notary, same-day dry cleaning and more.
FLIGHT at Tustin Legacy
The FLIGHT at Tustin Legacy shares a military pedigree with Great Park. It’s built on the location of Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, which closed in 1999. Two giant blimp hangars that date from World War II are signature historic landmarks on the property.
In 2016, the City of Tustin and Lincoln Property Company devised a mixed-use project for the 38-acre site. The first buildings opened earlier this year.
The project’s architecture, designed by Rios Clementi Hale, echoes its military history. The mixed-use office campus, which covers 870,000 square feet, features large, uninterrupted double-height buildings that resemble airplane hangars. The design is intended to attract tenants in creative and high-tech fields.
While tenants are starting to trickle in (the current list includes co-working company Work Well Win and e-commerce provider Branded Online), the community surrounding the development has a new place to eat. The 12,000-square-foot Mess Hall Market is a food hall that features several eateries and a common bar.
“FLIGHT is a prime example of how we can redefine work life and the traditional office campus layout through design that flexibly accommodates multiple types of tenants and connects them to the greatest amenity – the Southern California climate,” Mark Motonaga, the creative director of Rios Clementi Hale, told Urbanize Los Angeles in July.
Trey Barrineau is the Managing Editor, Publications for NAIOP. In this role, he supervises day-to-day operations of Development magazine.