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California City Solutions: Irvine’s Public-Private Partnership Contributes to Development of Master Urban Planning

September 26, 2014
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
 
The 2014 entries will be added soon on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. Irvine’s Orange County Great Park was submitted in 2014 for the Planning and Environmental Quality award category.
 
The city of Irvine welcomed more than 64,000 visitors last October for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon and XPO, an eight-day event held at the Orange County Great Park. This marked the first time it was hosted outside of Washington D.C. after Irvine was selected over more than 20 other major U.S. cities. Inspired by this success, Irvine has embarked on a new public-private partnership to repurpose a portion of the former 4,639-acre Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro to  attract other major national and international events to the area and encourage sustainable development. City leaders hope to have this phase of the project development completed in 2019.
 
The October 2013 event provided a fitting showcase for the still-evolving park on the site of a former air force base being given a new transformation thanks to a public-private partnership and an exhaustive — and award-winning — process of planning and building.
 
The result of Irvine’s work and partnership: a 1,300-acre development embracing sustainability, preserving Orange County’s agricultural heritage, and honoring the former base’s military history, setting a new standard for sustainable park design and urban planning.
 
The begin with, the city faced a daunting task: transforming an area twice the size of New York City’s Central park in way that was efficient and cost-effective, while enhancing the quality of life for resident and benefiting the environment.
 
When the state eliminated redevelopment funding, Irvine’s challenge grew greater still. City leaders tackled the problem with a multi-departmental plan and partnership with private developer, FivePoint Communities. Under the plan approved by the city council in November 2013, 688 acres of the park will be developed over the next five years, beginning in June 2014.
 
Features of the development will include:
  • A 176-acre sports park to complement the Great Park's existing North and South Lawn areas that include competitive soccer fields, basketball courts, a permanent visitor center and the park's first permanent water feature;
  • A 185-acre golf course, golf practice facility and clubhouse;
  • A 41-acre Bosque area;
  • A 36-acre Upper Bee Canyon area; and
  • A 178-acre wildlife corridor, complementing surrounding park features. 
Other park features include the Great Park Balloon that rises 400 feet in the air, the Palm Court Arts Complex, and historic Hangar 244 that hosts meetings and other large-group programs.
 
The agreement with FivePoint Communities has an estimated gross value of more than $200 million to the city, along with additional public benefits. FivePoint Communities will also provide an additional $10 million to the city for improvements to Marine Way, the main entrance into the Great Park. In return, the agreement allows FivePoint Communities to build an additional 4,606 dwelling units on its privately owned Great Park Neighborhoods development next to the Great Park.
 
Orange County Great Park’s vast space and environmentally friendly amenities make it a destination for international and national events such as the Solar Decathlon held last year. Irvine has once again been selected to host the Solar Decathlon at the Great Park location in October 2015.
 
Beyond the Solar Decathlon, the park has held concerts and educational workshops and features a working urban agricultural area. The construction of additional sports facilities will also provide residents more opportunities to live healthy, active lifestyles. These programs, events, and resources will expand the quality of life in one of the nation's leading master-planned communities for many generations.
 
When complete, the Orange County Great Park will join America’s national treasures and set a new standard for great metropolitan parks around the world.


 
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