Orange County Business Journal

Lowe Enterprises Tapped for 100-Acre El Toro Development

Mark Mueller Thursday, July 26, 2012

The County of Orange has selected Lowe Enterprises to help turn a 100-acre parcel of largely vacant land at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine into a mixed-use project.

The County of Orange Board of Supervisors this week chose Lowe Enterprises, a Los Angeles-based real estate development and management company, to provide entitlement, pre-development and property management services for the site, which runs just east of the Santa Ana (I-5) Freeway, next to the Orange County Great Park.

The county-owned site has the potential for a variety of retail, hotel, office, apartment and other uses.

The Wild Rivers Waterpark is expected to relocate from the Irvine Spectrum and take about 15 acres of the land, which now holds five vacant and obsolete warehouses.

Terms of the deal with Lowe Enterprises, including the details of the scope of work and a contract with the master developer, still need to be negotiated.

The county is looking to maintain ownership of the land, and officials said earlier this year that the county was leaning toward setting up a 99-year ground lease for the site, one of the larger OC land parcels to go on the market in the past few years.

Development for some of the land could begin next year, although a timeline on a bulk of the site’s construction depends on what uses are chosen for the land.

Another factor is the pace of infrastructure work in and around the Great Park, which would share some roads, mainly a reworked Marine Way, with a mixed-use development on the site.

The 100-acre site is near the southwest edge of the 1,300-acre OC Great Park site, and is adjacent to the Irvine Metrolink train station. It’s also a short distance from the Eastern (133) Toll Road and Santa Ana (I-5) Freeway.

The older warehouses on the property would be torn down to make way for any new development. A good amount of environmental remediation work is likely needed to get the land ready for any new construction.

The county was given ownership of its 100-acre parcel as part of the 2003 annexation of the former Marine base by the city of Irvine.

The mixed-use project proposed for the land is not directly affiliated with the 3,700-acre Great Park Neighborhoods development project, which is being overseen by Aliso Viejo-based FivePoint Communities Management Inc.

Other large development projects that Lowe Enterprises has in the region include a 900,000-square-foot county operations center in San Diego, and a transit-oriented mixed use development in Culver City.