Irvine leaders went back to drawing, now approve new concepts for Great Park’s future – Orange County Register

Botanical garden with special themes around a veterans memorial park. A working farm that could supply food to local retailers. A spacious meadow adjoins floating 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 the future development of hundreds of acres in Great Park.

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

The plan focuses on the first 313 hectares of still undeveloped land. Beyond that, there are still about 450 acres to be outlined.

After several attempts and millions spent over the years designing in-depth plans for The Great Park, city leaders decided last year to go back to the drawing board and renew a public outreach campaign to generate new input for future development. In 2,900 survey responses, people said they wanted a place that is “the West Coast equivalent of Central Park,” Chi said. One that “would have cultural uses, open spaces. Truly a world-class park.”

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

A new conceptual plan focuses on future development of an initial 313 acres of still undeveloped tracts of land in Irvine’s Great Park. Beyond that, there are still about 450 acres yet to be planned. (Courtesy of the City of Irvine.)

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

The framework outlines a number of attractions in several corners of Den Great Park, from improvements to the existing sports park, to a woodland feel for the Bosque trail, as well as museums in the Culture Terrace and new attractions in the center of the park, which city staff call “the heart of the park”.

The city council has previously noted its desire for a massive botanical garden with a dedicated veterans memorial park on a 125-acre site known as the ARDA site. The conceptual plan envisions the first 30 acres with a main garden of native California plants, surrounded by other themed areas, including a playground and butterfly garden. A veterans park could go on an adjacent five hectares, next to a library and a terrace. And a public square could connect all the elements.

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

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

Officially envisions two blue lakes where people could walk along boardwalks and over bridges and take in elements that showcase wetland habitats. The agricultural component could include a barn, a 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 she posted at a rally with a man who has denied the genocide. .

A large outdoor amphitheater – a permanent replacement for the temporary Fivepoints Amphitheater – would anchor the space. City officials have been working with concert promoter Live Nation since April to find a site of at least 20 acres in 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 left over from the former El Toro Marine Base.

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

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

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

With the green light from city leaders on the outline, it clears the way for officials to begin pursuing contracts and design plans, Chi said.

Councilman Larry Agran, who has argued that the ARDA site should be dedicated to a larger veterans memorial area and perimeter park, voted against the plan last week. Many of the framework’s ideas, he said, require “further consideration, further discussion, further public participation.”

Agreements with Live Nation for the amphitheater and US Water Polo for the water facility are expected to come back to the City Council in September.

Chi said he and city staff are focused on fulfilling commitments to fill in more of Den Store Park, after years of collapses with previous planning attempts. Aside from the sports section, the vision for development “has been moved and advanced in starts and stops due to a variety of influences,” Chi said, such as the lack of consensus that dragged on about how to proceed with plans for a veteran. cemetery at Den Store Park.

But having a “comprehensive plan” for next steps this time, with the majority of the council’s approval, should be encouraging, Chi said.

“We will make sure that we live up to the promise this time to build out Den Store Park.”

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