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Irvine Spectrum Center Unveils $200 Million Expansion That Converted One Mega Store into 30 Smaller Shops

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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A tarp-covered fence at the Irvine Spectrum Center separates established merchants from their new neighbors, who bustle about readying for their imminent grand opening.

Printed across the temporary divider, a message beckons: “Experience the Expansion.”

Visitors will be able to do just that when the curtain comes down Aug. 18, revealing the Spectrum’s $200 million renovation.

Among the dozens of just-unveiled shops and eateries will be Stance, a San Clemente-based sock couturier launched in 2009.

 “We’re receiving inventory, training staff and putting the finishing touches on the interior,” co-founder John Wilson said. “We can’t wait to turn on the lights, open the door and welcome customers.”

This is Stance’s eighth store nationally, and first in Southern California.

“Spectrum is a premiere retailer smack dab in the middle of Orange County,” Wilson said. “We are really excited to be here.”

Only two years ago, the Spectrum lost one of its anchors, a 140,000-square-foot Macy’s. Greater Irvine Chamber Leaders Circle member Irvine Company immediately went to work re-imagining the void left behind.

Today, four buildings – replacing the lone hulking structure once there – surround a canopy-shaded plaza where coffee-sippers can relax in comfy chairs.

“We looked at the sales volume generated by Macy’s and decided we could drive significantly more traffic with 30 tenants rather than just one,” said Butch Knerr, president of Irvine Company Retail Properties. “We curated a great mix of local, regional and national tenants.”

Along with boutique stores such as Stance, the updated wing will feature a 43,500-square-foot H&M clothing store and a 5,400-square-foot Sephora – the latter of which will not debut until 2019.

“Malls have had to adapt with changes in the marketplace,” said industry analyst George Anderson, editor of RetailWire. “Some are doing quite well by becoming destinations in and of themselves, not just a collection of stores.”

Anderson noted that the success stories “have become like amusement parks.”

“It’s all about entertainment and giving people a reason to be there other than shopping,” he said.

The Spectrum serves as a prime example. Now, in addition to its 108-foot-tall Giant Wheel and freshly repainted carousel, kids will have another reason to eagerly accompany their parents to a mall: A large sculpture they are invited to scale.

Eighteen feet high and 50 feet long, “Luckey Climber” – named after its architect Spencer Luckey – is composed of 75 brightly colored platforms made from durable plastic.

“It’s there for children to play on, but it’s also a work of art,” said Heather Nykolaychuk, chief marketing officer of Irvine Company Retail Properties

Even pre-expansion, the Spectrum has offered the lures of a 21-screen movie complex and an Improv Comedy Club – things that, over all, require a physical rather than virtual presence.

New vendors will sell everything from doughnut-encased ice cream to haircuts and yoga to Hawaiian decor.

Most whimsical is Hello Kitty Café – promoted by Sanrio as boasting “super-cute” cookies, cakes and teas. This one will be the first to serve alcoholic beverages, too.

The Spectrum’s last major overhaul took place in 2002, with the addition of more than 60 shops and restaurants including Macy’s, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. Nordstrom joined the center in 2005, and Target in 2006.

It is the Irvine Company’s most popular mall, attracting about 17 million people annually – only 5 million fewer than South Coast Plaza. To accommodate even more cars, the expansion is adding a parking structure with 1,500 spaces, bringing the total to more than 6,500.

“The Irvine Company figured out years ago that malls must be more than three anchor stores,” Knerr said. “Retail centers are not dead. They just need to be relevant.”

Source: OC Register

Category: Member News, Economic Development

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