Irvine may sell park land after depleting funds

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IRVINE, Calif. (AP) – The city of Irvine is considering selling off more than 1,000 acres of land that had been destined for a signature park to rival the likes of New York City’s Central Park after running out of money to develop it.

The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that the city has spent $203 million to develop the shuttered 1,347-acre former military base into the Orange County Great Park, but only 200 acres of the parcel has been built.

A Times analysis found most of the money has been spent on plans, designs and consultants and little on actual construction. Half of the developed 200 acres is being leased out for commercial ventures.

The newspaper reported the city now lacks the rest of the funds to complete the park, except for a 30-acre chunk of athletic fields, gardens and a visitors center to be finished next year. City leaders are now contemplating either selling the land or asking private business to take over the project.

The sprawling park was once billed as a rival to Central Park or San Diego’s Balboa Park. Plans called for it to be filled with athletic fields, museums, cultural centers, a botanical garden and possibly a university. The land had been the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro around the time of World War II.

The newspaper said the project fell victim to California’s soured economy. The state took $1.4 billion in development funds destined for the park, while developer FivePoints Communities, which was supposed to surround the park with housing to generate tax revenue, halted its plans when the housing market took a dive.

Several businesses are eyeing the land. The Anaheim Ducks is in talks with the city to build an ice rink there, while another firms is proposing a concert venue. Meanwhile, FivePoints is offering to build $171 million in park facilities in exchange for a 40-acre tract for housing.

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