Local retail developer and operator Almquist has been tapped for a retail-focused overhaul of Irvine’s Great Park and a portion of the adjacent Great Park Neighborhoods.
The city recently began exclusive negotiations with San Juan Capistrano-based Almquist, formerly known as Frontier Real Estate Investments, for restaurants and dining concepts at the Great Park as part of Irvine’s $1 billion goal of expanding the park into the largest of its kind in the nation.
Almquist has also been selected to build a grocery-anchored retail site at the Great Park Neighborhoods, owned by Irvine-based Five Point Holdings LLC (NYSE: FPH).
That project marks FivePoint’s first retail project in Irvine; more than 8,000 homesites have been sold in the city by the master developer over the past decade.
Almquist previously developed Stanton’s Rodeo 39 Public Market, a 40,000-square-foot food hall that opened in 2020 and is among Orange County’s largest and more eclectic retail additions in recent years.
The developer is currently working on River Street Marketplace in San Juan Capistrano, a 60,000-square-foot retail site set to open this fall.
The company recently drafted a plan for a grocery-anchored retail center planned at the corner of Bosque and Great Park Boulevard.
The project was originally located at the corner of Ridge Valley and Great Park Boulevard, but FivePoint and Almquist recently proposed to relocate it to the new site, which is immediately adjacent to the city’s Great Park project.
FivePoint CEO Dan Hedigan previously told the Business Journal the company was marketing the approximately 5.5-acre site “to experienced retail developers who are skilled at constructing and operating these types of retail centers.”
Almquist aims to make the site more tight-knit and pedestrian-oriented, which is “atypical” for neighborhood centers, according to CEO Dan Almquist.
“In a lot of traditional neighborhood centers, people are used to getting into their car to go to two different locations in the same center,” Almquist told the Business Journal.
“We want to create smaller spaces where people can hang out, like the mom in the stroller coming across the street, who wants to find somewhere to sit and let the kids run around.”
Tenants for the project have yet to be decided, though a high-end grocer is likely to anchor the center, sources tell the Business Journal.
Great Park Expansion
Almquist’s plans with FivePoint may have boosted its candidacy among the five offers from developers the city of Irvine received.
City plans for its Great Park expansion aims to nearly triple its existing size to 1,300 acres—larger than the 1,200-acre Balboa Park, the 843-acre Central Park and the 1,017-acre Golden Gate Park.
Once complete, “it will likely draw attention nationwide and globally,” Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan told the Business Journal.
The first, $810 million phase of the Great Park expansion includes the building of a central lake, a museum complex, botanic garden, a veteran’s memorial park and potentially an outdoor amphitheater.
Almquist will be renovating the Great Park’s existing Hangar 244 into a food hall, building a restaurant next to the central lake and establishing pop-up food and beverage stands on the park’s primary walkway.
“I’ve never had this type of a canvas to work with,” Almquist told the Business Journal. “It’s a massive project, and to be able to play a small part in it is really special.”
It’s too early for Almquist to identify specific tenants for the Great Park, with the first phase of the city’s new plans expected to be completed by 2032.
The developer plans to use a combination of local and national companies for the
project, including residents near the Great Park.
Great Park residents in the food and beverage industry have been previously offered the opportunity to operate their own stands at the park, though that effort fell through, Mayor Khan said in the Great Park board meeting on Aug. 8.
Almquist is set on involving those residents, some of whom may get extra support from the developer’s startup fund for new restaurants and dining concepts.
“The big intent with that was to not have the initial capital investment act as a barrier to somebody who has talent and can prove themselves,” Almquist said.
The city project may be further integrated with FivePoint’s plans if it proceeds with a land exchange with the developer, city filings indicate.
FivePoint’s 5.5-acre parcel includes Hangar 10 and its retail Pop-Up Village made of repurposed shipping containers, which have been empty for years.
That parcel may be sold to the city, in exchange for a similarly sized, vacant parcel on the Great Park that FivePoint may use for affordable housing.