Economic Development

Irvine Parks its Image

Groundbreaking to begin for a large urban playground
by | May 2006
 

After years of planning, Irvine, California, will break ground this summer on what will become one of the largest urban parks in the nation. "It's among the largest publicly driven, non-highway construction projects in the country," says Irvine City Councilman Larry Agran.

Orange County Great Park is being built on the grounds of the former El Toro Marine Air Base, which was decommissioned in 1999. The city will begin tearing apart runways and razing some of the remaining military structures over the next few months.

Lennar Corp., a private developer, bought the 4,000-acre facility but is handing over the deed to 1,347 acres to Irvine--along with $400 million in seed money for the park--in exchange for development rights to the remaining land. The private developments will be massive, collectively budgeted at more than $10 billion. In addition to a large residential area complete with golf course, transit-oriented development will sprout up around an existing train station. The area will also become home to satellite university campuses.

The Great Park itself will be the larger than Central Park. Ken Smith, a landscape architect in New York, won the design competition this winter and is expected to turn in a master plan by the end of 2007. The park's opening day, then, is far off in the future, but completion of such an ambitious project should lend a distinctive identity to an area of 3 million people that still is seen nationwide as just a suburb of Los Angeles.

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