City of Irvine Use Conceptual Plan for Great Park Development

Published on August 3, 2022


(OC Register)

Botanic gardens with specialty themes surrounding a veteran’s memorial park. A working farm that could supply food to local retailers. A spacious meadow abutting flowing lakes with a wetland garden.

These are some of the ideas that top a new conceptual plan Irvine leaders say they will use to guide future development of hundreds of acres in the Great Park.

Drawing on public feedback collected during recent outreach events and decades of previous park planning, city staffer devised the plan to be a “framework” for some future amenities and attractions at the park, City Manager Oliver Chi said.

The plan focuses on an initial 313 acres of still undeveloped land. Beyond that, another roughly 450 acres remains to be sketched out.

After several attempts and millions spent over the years to design in-depth plans for the Great Park, city leaders last year decided to go back to the drawing board, revamping a public outreach campaign to drum up fresh input for future development. In 2,900 survey responses, people said they wanted a place that’s “the West Coast equivalent of Central Park,” Chi said. One that “would have cultural uses, open space. Really a world class park setting.”

Botanic gardens, museums, a library and an amphitheater were among the desired amenities residents noted, he said.

The conceptual plan, which was recently presented to and approved by the City Council, is “a first step” to organizing and moving forward on Great Park projects that have broad support from city officials and residents, Chi said.

The framework outlines a series of attractions dotting several corners of the Great Park, from improvements in the existing sports park, to a forest feel for the Bosque trail, as well as museums in the Cultural Terrace and new attractions in the park’s center, which city staff are calling the “heart of the park.”

The City Council has noted previously its desire for a massive botanic garden with a dedicated veteran’s memorial park on a 125-acres known as the ARDA site. The conceptual plan envisions the first 30 acres featuring a main garden with native California plants, surrounded by other themed spaces including a children’s playground and butterfly garden. A veteran’s park could go on an adjacent five acres, next to a library and terrace. And a public plaza could connect all the elements.

City officials anticipate this first phase of the garden and memorial park to cost roughly $36 million.

Just south of the gardens, on roughly 140 acres in the center of the Great Park, the plan explores an outdoor amphitheater and some nature features such as lakes, a 700-foot wide “great meadow” and a farm.

Official envision two blue lakes where people could walk along boardwalks and across bridges, taking in elements that showcase wetlands habitats. The farming component could include a barn, culinary institute and space for regular farmers markets.

The meadow is also a space where an Armenian Genocide memorial could go, something Mayor Farrah Khan said she would explore after she was criticized by the Armenian community earlier this year over a video posted of her at a meeting with a man who has denied the genocide.

A large outdoor amphitheater – a permanent replacement to the temporary FivePoint Amphitheatre – would anchor the space. City officials have been working with concert promoter Live Nation since April to locate a spot of at least 20 acres in the Great Park where a concert venue could go.

In the Cultural Terrace, already home to the new Wild Rivers water park, attractions such as the Flying Leathernecks and California Fire museums are expected to find homes among the historic hangars that remain from the former El Toro Marine Base.

And joining the sprawling soccer fields, volleyball courts and ball fields already built, city officials outlined ideas for a gym and community center, an aquatics facility in partnership with USA Water Polo and food and beverage options for Great Park visitors.

Amidst all the ideas for new amenities, officials said they are working out the best way to connect the park’s elements through trails for walking and biking, and how traffic will flow through the park.

With $580 million in Great Park-dedicated funds in hand, Chi said Tuesday the city’s available money would be enough to fund and maintain the projects explored in the conceptual plan.

With the go-ahead from city leaders on the outline, it paves the way for officials to start pursuing contracts and design plans, Chi said. read more