Visitors to the Great Park and the thousands of residents living around it could soon have a new retail and food center after years of waiting, during which they’ve had to drive to surrounding neighborhoods for their groceries and cuisine.
Precise plans on what food and beverage options will actually make it into the park are still unclear, but city staff mapped out a plan to string together remodeled aircraft hangars turned food courts with a new, privately owned retail center along the northeastern edge of the park.
The plan is also set to give FivePoint, the city’s developer partner at the park, a roughly five- acre plot next to the proposed center to develop new affordable housing in exchange for giving up a chunk of the park’s land that would go into the retail center.
Parissa Yazdani, co-chair of the city’s Great Park Task Force, said they’re hopeful that with FivePoint stepping off the project something might actually get done.
“FivePoint was the one doing it before, and they just kept dropping the ball,” Yazdani said in an interview. “Based on what we’ve heard, we love it … but it’s still premature.”
The plans were set to be discussed Tuesday night by the city council, but the discussion was cancelled last minute due to a “question,” on the contract according to city manager Oliver Chi, who said city leaders will now discuss the plan on July 25.
While retail and food options have been promised for years by FivePoint, nothing has ever materialized.
FivePoint X, described as a “modern European village,” by the developer, was formally canceled last year after years of discussion, and FivePoint’s plans for the “Pop up in the Park,” food center in the park still read “Coming Soon 2022,” on the project’s website.
Now, city leaders are looking to partner with Almquist, also known as Frontier Real Estate Investments, to develop new food options inside two abandoned aircraft hangars, leftovers from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.
The company was also recently hired by FivePoint to develop a retail center for the Great Park Neighborhoods at the corner of Bosque and Great Park Blvd, which city staff say they want to link with the food courts for one centralized food and retail area.
“The path between the hangars … would be lined by a series of restaurants and retail spaces,” staff wrote in their report to the city council. “Almquist proposes to operate the food, beverage, and retail spaces located on City-owned property in tandem with the grocery-anchored retail center on FivePoint property.”
Almquist was also responsible for remodeling a series of projects in San Juan Capistrano, including the Capistrano Plaza, and the development of the Rodeo 39 Public Market in Stanton, according to their website.
City staff noted there are numerous details that need to be worked out, including a possible parking structure to support the new traffic, and pointed out that the current budget for the park wasn’t set up to accommodate this many retail projects.
“The Framework Plan … provides an allowance for renovation of Hangar 244 and construction of a lakeside restaurant, but does not anticipate construction of additional restaurant or retail buildings, nor development of a parking structure,” staff wrote.
For the plan to move forward, city leaders would need to sign an exclusive negotiating agreement with Almquist and set up a property swap between FivePoint and the city.
Under the city’s plan, FivePoint would give up around 5.5 acres in the park that includes one of the hangers and the area for the promised Pop Up in the Park, which would let the retail and food sites get connected and managed by Almquist and the city.
In exchange, they’d receive approximately 5.5 acres right next door to the retail and shopping centers from the city to develop new affordable housing, but the staff report didn’t mention how many units would go there or just how affordable they would be.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesada.
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