The Great Park development puts Irvine once again on the cutting edge of real estate development. “We are looking forward to working with the City of Irvine, the Great Park Corporation, and community leadership to create a legacy for generations to come.” “We are looking forward to working with the City of Irvine, the Great Park Corporation, and community leadership to create a legacy for generations to come,” said Emile Haddad, speaking on the part that Lennar’s Heritage Fields will play in creating homes and amenities for residents of and visitors to one of the first great metropolitan parks of the 21st century, the Orange County Great Park
Real estate development practices in Irvine have a history of being on the cutting edge. And with the development of the Orange County Great Park, innovative real estate development in Irvine promises to continue.
The Orange County Great Park is the public-private real estate development in Irvine that will convert the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station into a mix of uses, including homes interspersed with numerous recreational, cultural and educational amenities. This public-private development covers approximately 4,000 acres, or over six square miles.
To put the size of the Great Park into perspective, Balboa Park, Golden Gate Park, Disneyland and New York’s Central Park combined would fit into this space. And to put the scope of this project into perspective, as Central Park was developed as one of the great metropolitan parks of the 19th century, the Orange County Great Park will be one of the first great metropolitan parks of the 21st century.
The public part of this partnership is the Orange County Great Park Corporation, which consists of the five City of Irvine council members and four appointees. The City of Irvine is known for providing its citizens excellent amenities, such as award-winning schools, well-maintained infrastructure and a high level of public safety as shown by consistently making the FBI’s safest-large-cities list. This public portion of the Great Park is currently planned to be over 1,300 acres, or about twice the size of New York’s Central Park.
The private part of this partnership is Heritage Fields, a division of Lennar Corporation. Lennar, one of the top homebuilders in the U.S., prides itself on building quality homes that can be cherished for a lifetime. Lennar provides its customers the Everything’s Included program, in which houses come complete with most top-of-the-line features. This private portion of the Great Park is currently planned to be approximately 3,000 acres.
Although the Great Park Corporation and Lennar Corporation are working in a very close and cooperative relationship with many responsibilities overlapping, basically the Great Park Corporation is building the interior of the Great Park, and Lennar is developing the surrounding ring of the park.
The Great Park Corporation is taking its responsibility to create a world-class park very seriously. As part of this responsibility, the Great Park board realized that to have a Great Park, a great design is needed. So in keeping with Irvine’s reputation for quality as well as its tradition of innovation, the Great Park governing board oversaw a design competition that included top architects and designers from around the globe.
The board made its decision on who should be award the title of Great Park Master Designer only after input from many sources, including two juries of top architects and input from the Orange County community in the form of several community forums, surveys and comment lines. The board also visited projects in Europe and the United States that were completed by the three design finalists. Aided by this input, the Great Park board awarded the job of Great Park Master Designer to New York’s Ken Smith.
Ken Smith is an internationally recognized landscape architect and principal of Ken Smith Landscape Architect. Among Ken’s honors are two awards received in 2004 from the American Landscape Society of Landscape Architecture — high honors in the design field.
To help with the huge undertaking of designing a world-class park for the 21st century, Ken has brought together a remarkable team from around the world. The design team, known as the Great Park Design Studio, includes professionals who are leaders in their fields of art, design, engineering, archaeology, landscape architecture, urban planning and ecological restoration.
As the Great Park board is taking its responsibility to create a world-class park very seriously, Lennar is also taking care to ensure quality development in the private portion of the Great Park development. The two years and $2 million that Lennar spent on just studying how and what it would bid on the Great Park land shows Lennar’s commitment and belief in the project. And as a further indication of Lennar’s commitment, Lennar’s winning bid was far above other offers.
Lennar’s Great Park development plans are focusing on providing not just houses or individual homes, but a community. To accomplish this goal, Lennar’s development plan includes a mix of housing, recreation, employment, entertainment and educational opportunities, all within easy access to each other. Lennar’s development plans can be divided into three general categories: homes, businesses and educational facilities.
The residential part of Lennar’s development will include single-family residences, senior housing and a transit-oriented development (TOD). The TOD will be approximately 400 acres of pedestrian-friendly, sustainable development located near the Irvine Spectrum business center and shopping center, as well as Irvine’s train station. Many of the K-12 schools that will serve these residential areas will be part of the highly regarded and sought after Irvine school district. Also, many trails and opportunities for outdoor activities will be interspersed throughout Lennar’s residential development.
Lennar’s commercial development plans currently include restaurants, shops and various attractions. Farmers’ markets, theaters and a small amusement park are just a few of the possibilities. Also Great Park residences will have easy access to the El Toro golf course, which is currently being renovated and will reopen in summer of 2008.
Lennar’s educational development, known as the Life Long Learning District, is planned to cover approximately 1,000 acres and to be home to respected higher education institutions. The Life Long Learning District will be a diverse, digital and multi-generational educational district.
In addition to the many amenities that Lennar’s development will provide to Great Park residents, these fortunate residents will also have at their “backdoor” the many amenities of the public portion of the Great Park.
The innovative design of the Ken Smith Great Park Design Studio, which will cover over 1,300 acres—or, as mentioned before, about twice the size of New York’s Central Park—includes extensive natural area as well as recreational and cultural uses.
Some of the features the Great Park Design Studio has proposed for the park are:
- Bosques—small parks within the larger Great Park, consisting of grassy, wooded areas with picnic tables that are close to the residential and commercial development.
- Sports park—currently planned to cover 175 acres.
- Impressive entry ways.
- Great lake—a lake available for water activities.
- Canyon—a 2-mile-long canyon available for hiking, biking and other recreational activities. Trails available to the handicapped are planned.
- Amphitheater—an outdoor theater with views of the lake and canyon.
- Great meadow—a large open space for activities such as picnics and unstructured outdoor pastimes
- Botanical gardens—world-class gardens and arboretum.
- Wildlife corridor—a pathway that allows wildlife movement from the ocean at Laguna Beach to the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest.
- Helium balloon and adjacent visitors center—an orange helium balloon that will carry passengers 500 feet in the air, providing views of the Great Park and surrounding areas.
In addition, the Design Studio’s plans call for preserving Orange County’s heritage by including features such as a veterans’ memorial, citrus and orange groves scattered around the park, agricultural uses, and a geological timeline displayed on one of the remaining El Toro Marine base runways. This timeline will show markers that identify important events in the history of Orange County, starting with geological eras and finishing in the present.
The Great Park Design Studio, with the agreement of the Great Park board of directors, plans to build these amenities in four stages. The Great Park’s helium balloon will be the first Great Park amenity available for public use. The balloon, which promises to be an Orange County icon, will be available for rides as soon as July 2007.
Great Park residents will have many connections between the public and private portions of the Great Park. Opportunities for walking, jogging, picnics, and relaxing will be intertwined between Lennar’s residential development and the Great Park’s public development. For example, the bosques will be close to the residential and commercial developments.
And to ensure ease of access to the many amenities of the Great Park, Lennar and the Great Park Design Studio are planning for the right mix of connections between the various Great Park areas. For example, in addition to the intertwining and connecting trails, plans call for the different Great Park areas to be linked by various types of public transportation and orange bikes located throughout the park.
“The spirit of nostalgia, camaraderie, and great promise we feel today will keep us directed as we make our way toward our destination—the creation of a place unlike any other—on land unlike any other.” ~~ Bob Santos, Lennar Heritage Fields In addition to all this, both Lennar’s Heritage Fields and the Great Park Corporation have vowed to do all this in a way that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. For example, Lennar is planning to reduce its water use at its Great Park headquarters by 30 percent and energy consumption by 10 percent, thereby, saving money and the environment. With the development of the Orange County Great Park, Irvine real estate development is once again on the cutting edge of innovation. With the Great Park Corporation, the Ken Smith Design Studio and Lennar’s Heritage Fields’ commitment to building a Great Park that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, a great metropolitan park for the 21st century is ensured. Their combined vision, creativity and experience guarantee this. Also ensured is a unique, rewarding living experience for the residents fortunate enough to live in the Great Park area.