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Laguna Hills
Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Laguna Hills: Mall Overhaul Gets Go-Ahead

Plans to redevelop the former Laguna Hills Mall, underway since 2013, are now moving ahead after several false starts.

In March, Merlone Geier Partners, the San Diego-based retail developer, received city approval to proceed with a redesigned mixed-use project at the 68-acre site, just off the San Diego (5) Freeway and El Toro Road.

In total, the project, now called the Village at Laguna Hills, will see construction of up to 250,000 square feet of retail, up to 465,000 square feet of office space in four buildings, a hotel with as many as 150 rooms, and about 1,500 apartments in five different complexes, including 200 units of affordable housing.

The project will be built in phases, with city expectations that it will be completed in 15 years, though a few extensions beyond that time period could be made.

Overall, the cost of construction for the long-awaited project is estimated at $130 million, according to city records.

Merlone Geier will pay in excess of $20 million in various development-related fees to the city as part of the new agreement, records indicate.

The developer expects the site to create over 3,000 construction-related jobs, including over 1,500 indirect jobs, and over 3,500 full-time retail, office and hospitality jobs.

South County Standout

With city approvals now complete, the developer is turning its attention toward kicking off work at the long-awaited project, set to be the biggest mixed-use development in South Orange County in years.

The beginning of construction in a “best-case scenario would be six months, but it will most likely start in the next 12,” Stephen Logan, Merlone Geier VP of development, told the Business Journal in March.

The developer hopes to complete the project’s first phase within five to seven years, according to Logan.

That initial phase includes the office component of the project, alongside the hotel and about half of the residential and retail portions of the Village.

“This is [now] a true mixed-use project in South Orange County,” Logan said. “We think having all those different components is going to be dramatic for South Orange County and this shift will make it a better place for everyone to visit.”

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