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Irvine Market Place Eyed for Housing

The Irvine Co. is in the early stages of planning for what could be its first-ever housing project on the grounds of the Irvine Market Place, part of Orange County’s fifth- largest shopping center.

The Newport Beach real estate owner and developer has proposed building up to 1,400 residential units on its land at the Market Place to address “the quality of life and economic needs of recent graduates, young professionals, and essential service providers” in the Irvine area, according to city filings.

The company got the city’s approval late last month to move ahead with a General Plan Amendment application for the 79-acre  Irvine portion of the regional commercial shopping center, located on land east of Jamboree Road, just north of the Santa Ana (5) Freeway.

Specific details of the developer’s plans, including the exact on land location of any housing, and specific product types, haven’t been disclosed yet.

A higher-density rental project, similar in respects to new Irvine Co. apartment projects near its Irvine Spectrum Center and Fashion Island properties appears likely, sources tell the Business Journal.

The proposed housing project would add to the ranks of notable developments moving ahead on land surrounding some of OC’s larger shopping centers.

Along with Irvine Co. apartment projects on the outskirts of its other two big shopping centers, there are thousands of apartments or homes moving ahead or in the works near the Brea Mall, Outlets at Orange, Santa Ana’s MainPlace Mall and Westminster Mall, among other locations.

Lengthy Review

City documents and comments made during a March 22 city council hearing note that the Irvine Co. proposal is very much in the early stages and will face several sets of hearings before getting approved.

Any public hearing for the project likely wouldn’t be held until mid-2023, and “is largely dependent upon the level of environmental review required,” city filings note.

It’s one of two new General Plan Amendments being proposed by Irvine Co. for land it owns in the city, along with a similarly sized residential project in the Irvine Spectrum (see story, page 32).

Additions, Departures

The Market Place, which straddles both Irvine and Tustin along Jamboree Road, totals about 165 acres and brought in nearly $500 million in taxable sales for the 12 months ended June 30, according to Business Journal data. It’s Irvine Co.’s second-largest center by taxable sales, trailing only Fashion Island.

There are no records that Irvine Co. has considered a similar housing plan for the Tustin side of the shopping center.

The Irvine side of the project has landed some notable tenants of late, including one of the first Amazon Fresh grocery stores in the country. It’s also had a few high-profile closures, including a Bed Bath & Beyond that shuttered earlier this year as part of that retailer’s retrenching.

Documents filed with the city indicate the housing proposal is more a reflection of changing demands from younger residents, than backfilling any empty spaces at the center.

The project, and a counterpart in the Spectrum area, would result in a “residential lifestyle focused on sustainable frameworks including placing residents within walking distance to major employers and amenities like restaurants, shopping, and entertainment,” documents indicate.

City backers say such a product is essential for Orange County’s fastest-growing city to keep its economic edge.

Members of the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce “cite ‘housing near jobs’ as their No. 1 priority to attracting and retaining top-tier talent,” said chamber president and CEO Bryan Starr.

This is especially true for recent graduates entering the workforce, Starr said at the late-March city council hearing.

Established Area

The Irvine land under consideration for the project is currently not zoned for residential uses of any type.

The commercial property sits in an area designated as PA-4, a 1,409-acre section in the city’s northwest that’s runs north from the 5 Freeway to Portola Parkway, between Jamboree Road. and Culver Ave.

The area is essentially built out and is currently approved for 7,969 total residential units. That figure would rise to 9,369 if the project were to be approved as initially considered. 

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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