Irvine residents questioned if shopping centers will get tossed into a host of new developments their City Council agreed to on Tuesday night, which include a new amphitheater, a cricket pitch and a training ground for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
While the homes surrounding the Great Park have been under development for over a decade now, there still aren’t any shopping centers near the Park, with residents reporting they usually have to drive to Woodbury Town Center because there’s nothing closer.
Some residents raised their concerns to city council members at Tuesday’s meeting.
“The scaled back retail plan and lack of communication from FivePoint in the last few months has been frustrating,” said Daniel Chao, a member of a neighborhood group called the Great Park Residents Council. “The lack of grocery options nearby is a travesty while FivePoint continues to build out thousands more homes in Solis Park.”
Councilwoman Tammy Kim also shared some concerns with the past development at the Great Park, saying she expressed her “utter disappointment,” with the company in a call with FivePoint’s new CEO Daniel Hedigan, but was hopeful for improvements going forward.
“The prior leadership made a lot of promises and commitments then delivered on pretty much nothing,” Kim said. “I’m hoping with new leadership in place things will be different.”
Following public comments, City Manager Oliver Chi revealed that FivePoint X, the developer’s flagship plan for a retail site in the Great Park, had been tossed out.
“Imagine walking through a modern European village with unique and enticing restaurant and retail offerings, a place where both neighboring residents and out of town visitors from across the region meet,” FivePoint wrote on their website describing the project.
Set to feature 425,000 square feet of “mixed-commercial” development with a hotel, restaurants and retail centers, it’s now unclear where the park’s next retail center could be.
However, Chi said that FivePoint staff have confirmed they will be presenting a new retail plan to the city within the next 60 days.
In a phone call with Voice of OC on Wednesday evening, Chi said the city learned a month ago that the project had been cancelled, but that he was optimistic over the new plans FivePoint was creating.
“We’ve been emphasizing the need for a retail component,” Chi said. “As we’ve talked to our counterparts at FivePoint what we’ve heard is locationally they don’t know where it’s going to be located, but they’re engaged in a study.”
When asked by Voice of OC what the plan was going forward, Eric Morgan, vice president of Community Affairs for FivePoint, shared an excerpt of Hedigan’s speech from an earnings call in March, but declined to comment specifically on Irvine.
“Our communities need the proper balance of retail, office, medical and apartments to complement and support our growing residential footprint,” Hedigan said, promising a “renewed strategic approach.”
Despite FivePoint being the city’s park developer, they’ve had very few projects come before the city council for approval over the last two years, while the Wild Rivers Water Park and other projects with private funding have moved full speed ahead.
Fivepoint representatives also rarely appear at city council meetings to give an update on their projects.
Most of the city-led development at the Great Park is paid for by a special property tax, known as Mello-Roos, on homes surrounding the park, the largest of its kind in Orange County that has no sunset date.
The tax is funding projects such as the proposed $250 million water polo aquatics center and most of the infrastructure being built throughout the park and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Even though nearby homeowners are footing the bill, they don’t get more of a say in where those tax dollars go.
While council members have discussed potentially increasing the amount of control Great Park residents have over those tax dollars, nothing has ever actually moved forward.
In 2020, the city council voted and called for the developer’s attendance at their next meeting, sending a formal letter for them to appear and explain why so many projects had dropped off the radar.
FivePoint refused, and the city never followed up.
The city council is slated to discuss the Great Park in general at the May 24 meeting.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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