At least two new and revamped community spaces will be available to Great Park visitors in the next couple of years.

On Tuesday, March 26, Irvine city leaders approved the lease agreements for two local nonprofit organizations: Pretend City Children’s Museum and Orange County Music and Dance. The duo will be relocated to the Cultural Terrace at the Great Park, located on 35 acres adjacent to the Sports Complex, where they will open to visitors starting in the summer of 2026.

Pretend City’s relocation, expected to cost $56 million, will result in a 20,000-square-foot indoor and 20,000-square-foot outdoor facility, including a restaurant and rentable space for early childhood development partners, such as Beyond Blindness and the Association of the Education of the Young Child. The city will loan $26.5 million to the project, to be repayable over 47 years.

The museum, which now operates near Irvine Spectrum, features a kid-sized city where children can play different roles and learn how a community works. It includes a firehouse, grocery, art studio, marina, police and a street with cars.

Pretend City was initially slated to relocate to a different site at the Great Park per an agreement with the city in 2019, according to a staff report, but following the approval of the Great Park Framework Plan in 2022, the nonprofit expressed interest in relocating to the Cultural Terrace. Pretend City’s current facility, a 27,000-square-foot space at 29 Hubble in Irvine is at capacity, the report says, and the proposed location at Great Park would increase the size of their facility.

“Pretend City is looking forward to bringing our early learning and child development programs to even more families, helping them ensure their children are growing up healthy and ready to succeed in school,” said Ellen Pais, executive director of Pretend City.

Orange County Music and Dance, a youth performing arts school located at the west end of Irvine, will expand its offering at the Great Park, including additional classroom and rehearsal, performance and administrative space.

Relocation is expected to cost $40 million, to be privately funded through donations and the sale of its existing building.

Once completed, OCMD will boast an 85,000-square-foot facility. More than half of that will be dedicated to a music arts education center with 27 studios, 10 practice rooms and rehearsal and recital halls. There will also be a 450-seat theater and a 20,000-square-foot shared sublease space for nonprofit community arts organizations.

Both Pretend City and OCMD will stay at their current spaces until they’re relocated, representatives said.

“I’m really proud that we’re at this juncture where we’re partnering with both of you and moving forward to provide even more opportunities for our community members … not just within our city but throughout our region,” said Mayor Farrah Khan.

Two city representatives will sit on the boards of both organizations, said Steve Torelli, manager of Great Park administration and operations.

The lessees will be responsible for all operations and maintenance of their organizations while the city will take responsibility for maintaining the Cultural Terrace grounds. City seals must also be prominently displayed on the premises, including on buildings, Torelli said.

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The Cultural Terrace will also be home to the Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum, slated to open in early 2026, along with the historic hangars that remain from the former El Toro Marine Base.

City leaders on Tuesday also OK’d work with the South Coast Chinese Cultural Association on determining the feasibility of developing an Asian American history museum in the Cultural Terrace.

Early proposals by the SCCCA envision the museum to span a total of nearly 220,000 square feet, including 94,000 square feet of indoor space and a 125,000-square-foot garden and plaza. Within the indoor space would be a 200-seat auditorium, exhibition space, a library, a conference room and a kitchen that can serve 300 people, according to the proposal.

“This museum will hold profound significance in Irvine given our vibrant Asian American community,” said Councilmember Tammy Kim. “The museum will foster cross-cultural understanding and inclusion within Irvine, boost tourism and attract visitors eager to explore Asian American contributions.”

While largely in support of the proposal, Councilmember Larry Agran suggested a broader multicultural center that’s anchored by the Asian American experience.

City manager Oliver Chi said there’s plenty of space in the Cultural Terrace to include additional cultural amenities and attractions. He said he anticipates to share updates with city leaders in May or June.