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Along the Coast

A rendering of the St. Joseph Hoag Health fitness and wellness center, which is slated to open in the Irvine Co.'s 600 Newport Center Drive office tower.

Building Boom of New Homes
With two large residential communities about to open in Orange County – Beacon Park, the second major village in Irvine’s Great Park, in the summer and Esencia, the second major village by Rancho Mission Viejo near San Clemente, in the fall – it is easy to overlook the ever-continuing residential development by the Irvine Co. in Irvine.
No fewer than five Irvine Co. residential villages are actively selling homes ranging from the mid-$400,000s to the upper $2 millions.

Four of the villages are in north Irvine: Orchard Hills has seven neighborhoods with homes by five builders; Stonegate has five neighborhoods of homes by five builders; Portola Springs has five neighborhoods by four builders; and Cypress Village nine neighborhoods by three builders.

South of the 405 in Irvine is Hidden Canyon, with two neighborhoods by a single builder.
That is a ton of new homes to be sold, and reports are that sales continue to be brisk in all five villages. Chapman University forecasts creation of 47,000 new jobs in Orange County during this year, up from an earlier forecast of 38,000 jobs. As a result, by the end of this year Chapman predicts Orange County will have 1.54 million jobs and a total population of 3.1 million people. That equals a ratio of one job for every two men, women and children in the county.

Demand for homes should continue to be strong, with Chapman forecasting a 4.8 percent increase in all home prices during this year.

Reaching a Summit in Aliso Viejo
Some 20 years ago, John Parker stood on weed-covered open land in Aliso Viejo, and the ever-optimistic real estate developer said he was going to create a major office complex on that spot. He called his proposed development the Summit. At that time, it was difficult to imagine many business firms locating that far south of the Orange County airport area.
This year, John’s son, Russ Parker of Parker Properties, stood at the spot for the groundbreaking of the 15th and final building of the Summit Office Campus. The 14 existing buildings total 1.7 million square feet of space and house the more than 6,000 employees of more than 100 companies.

The building is being developed by Parker Properties on a 5.13-acre site for MicroVention Inc., a medical device company that had its start in Aliso Viejo, moved to Tustin as it grew, and now will return to Aliso Viejo into a 205,000-square-foot, four-story building designed by Ware Malcomb architects. More than 800 of MicroVention’s employees will occupy the new building when it opens in January 2017. The firm develops and manufactures micro stents that are inserted through arteries into the human brain and used throughout the world.

Adjacent to the Summit Office Campus is the Renaissance ClubSport, offering hotel accommodations and including a major sports club, and the Aliso Viejo Town Center. John Parker’s vision has been fulfilled.

A New Kind of Fitness Center
The longtime 24 Hour Fitness Center branch in Newport Center, located in a single-story wing of the Irvine Co.’s 600 Newport Center Drive office tower, is closing at the end of this month to make way for what the Irvine Co. calls a fitness, wellness and health care center to be operated by St. Joseph Hoag Health.

When the new facility opens next spring, it will include medical offices open to the public for same-day appointments; a medical and training studio, also open to the public; and a private fitness center and fitness training studio open only to tenants of Irvine Co. Newport Center office buildings.

The Irvine Co. already has two fitness and wellness centers operated by St. Joseph Hoag Health, one at the Village Apartments at Irvine Spectrum and one at the Jamboree Center office complex in Irvine, but each of these is only 1,000 square feet, compared with the 17,000-square-foot facility planned for Newport Center.

What a surprise! When the county prepared to develop two former El Toro Marine Corps sites it owns on either side of Irvine’s Great Park, 100 acres on one side and 44 acres on the other, observers – including the city of Irvine and FivePoint Communities, which is developing residential and commercial acreage around the Great Park – expected complementary uses such as museums, libraries and sports fields.

But the county, seeking to lease the key acreage, decided to look for the land’s highest and best use. Accordingly, the county brought in Los Angeles real estate developer Lowe Enterprises for the 100-acre site and wham! To the city’s and FivePointe’s surprise, the plan brought forth calls for 1.9 million square feet of offices, 220,000 square feet of retail, a 242-room hotel, and 2,970 apartment units – 2,000 on the 100-acre site and 970 on the 44-acre site.

The city cried foul, citing excessive size and scope; FivePoint is concerned about the competition; and the Irvine Co. has remained silent in public. We have to wait to see what happens here.

Nearby, Broadcom Corp. recently purchased 73 acres from FivePoint Communities for a reported $110 million and has broken ground for a campus with five buildings totaling 1.1 million square feet in the first phase.  First phase cost is pegged at $650 million through completion in 2018. The campus might eventually total two million square feet.

Broadcom’s subsequent $37 billion pending acquisition by Singapore’s Avago Technologies appears not to have changed Broadcom’s new campus plans. In addition, many see Costa Mesa’s Emulex Corp., which Avago purchased earlier this year, moving to the current Broadcom campus as Avago has put the three-building Emulex complex up for sale.

Keeping the Farm in Farm-to-Table
A while ago, I contacted The Orange County Register food writer Nancy Luna with the tongue-in-cheek question: “Nancy, you know all of the restaurants in Orange County.  I am looking for a restaurant that does not have farm-to-table, locally sourced cuisine.”
To which she replied, “Very funny.” But yes, it seemed that every new restaurant Luna wrote about had farm-to-table, locally sourced cuisine.

But how much locally sourced cuisine can there be? The Irvine Co. gave up its farming operations years ago as demand for housing overtook farm land; the Segerstrom bean fields are essentially gone, and the Sakioka family has converted large parts of its farmland into residential and commercial use.

One answer was provided in a recent article in Fortune magazine, of all places, when the national financial publication spotlighted Orange County Produce, the farming company owned by A.G. Kawamura and his brother Matt. The Kawamuras farm tiny parcels of land waiting for development, such as a 22-acre rectangle in Irvine surrounded by apartment buildings and set under Edison power transmission lines.

On 40 parcels, mostly in Orange County and located as much as 40 miles apart, the Kawamuras grow a broad variety of produce – from green beans and strawberries to cabbages, peppers and squash. The produce is sold to brokers and direct to “white tablecloth” restaurants such as the post Pelican Hills Resort. Making it economically feasible to grow produce on small parcels, which continue to be swallowed by development, is the Kawamuras’ discovery of consumers’ relatively recent desire for locally grown food and now a demand for organic foods. Currently, 30 percent of the Kawamuras’ produce is organic.  
Orange County Produce’s 40 parcels total about 1,000 acres, but the Kawamuras are especially interested in a one-acre parcel in Irvine’s Great Park where they are experimenting with methods of growing more produce on less land while using
less water.

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