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Credit Union Eyes Tustin for New HQ

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SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in California, is eyeing a site in Tustin to build a sizeable new headquarters facility.

The Santa Ana-based credit union, which had $12.4 billion in assets as of mid-2016, is in negotiations with Tustin to buy a roughly 1.7-acre parcel of city-owned land just off the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway near Edinger Avenue.

The site could hold an 185,000-square-foot, four-story office, a retail branch to serve customers of the credit union, and a four-story parking structure, according to city documents.

Terms of the sale have not been determined yet, and a time frame for the project breaking ground hasn’t been announced.

The negotiation agreement between the credit union and the city could run as long as 10 months, city documents show.

Current plans call for SchoolsFirst to “relocate its corporate headquarters, including the ‘C-Suite’ and board of directors, into the proposed four-story office building,” according to city documents.

The credit union’s current headquarters is a few miles away in Santa Ana on North Broadway.

SchoolsFirst also has a two-building operations center in Tustin next to the site where the new office would be. It’s had that Newport Avenue location—which it refers to as the Rudy Hanley campus, named after its former chief executive—since 1994, and owns the property. The two buildings total about 150,000 square feet, according to CoStar Group Inc. records, and city filings indicate that more than 900 employees work there.

The proposed office building would allow for approximately 750 additional employees to work in Tustin, an increase that would make the credit union Tustin’s largest employer.

Tustin Unified School District is the largest employer in the city, with about 1,100 employees as of 2013, according to city records

SchoolsFirst ranked as Orange County’s 61st largest employer as of last year, with 1,500, according to Business Journal data.

The site is one of several parcels just south of the 55 Freeway that the city owns. It sold other nearby land several years ago to Newport Beach-based R.D. Olson Development for a pair of hotels, a Renaissance Inn and Fairfield Inn and Suites.

Tustin’s city council last week signed off on the proposal to negotiate with the credit union on the proposed land sale.

SchoolsFirst plans to make a $50,000 good faith payment to the city as part of the deal.

It has over $10 billion in assets more than the second largest credit union in OC, Huntington Beach-based NuVision Federal Credit Union. It is the fifth largest credit union in the county and is the largest that serves school employees.

It previously was known as Orange County Teachers Credit Union but changed its name to SchoolsFirst in 2008. It has over 40 branches.

The credit union serves more than 723,000 school employees and their families in Southern California, according to city documents. About 13,000 of its members live in the city.

The office development proposal comes as a new batch of offices is scheduled to break ground this year at the former Marine base in Tustin.

The “Flight” project, is an 18-building creative-office development that will be built in two phases on a portion of the Tustin Legacy development.

The first phase, scheduled to break ground in a few months, will include eight offices and a stand-alone food hall and conference center, and will total nearly 400,000 square feet. The offices will be a mix of build-to-suit and for-lease.

That project is being headed by a partnership between the Irvine office of Lincoln Property Co. Commercial and Boston-based real estate private equity firm Alcion Ventures.

A development partner for the credit union’s office development has not been disclosed.

Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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