The wait in limbo for food and beverage options close to home may soon be over for Irvine’s Great Park residents.

The Great Park Board — made up of the City Council members — decided Tuesday, Aug. 8, to move forward with an exclusive negotiating agreement with Almquist, formerly known as Frontier Real Estate Investments, to plan and develop a food and retail center at Great Park.

The vision is to turn the 12,000-square-foot Hangar 244, located in the Great Park’s Sports Complex, into a food hall, similar to the Rodeo 39 Public Market in Stanton and San Juan Capistrano’s upcoming River Street Marketplace, both developed by Almquist. To the northeast, FivePoint-owned Hangar 10 would also be retrofitted into a public market and retail space. The path between the hangars would be lined with restaurants and retail shops, according to city staff.

Hangar 244 has been identified as a good place to include food and beverage options given its proximity to existing parking and the Great Park’s visitor center and large soccer stadium and surrounding courts and sport fields, officials said.

For Hangar 10 to be included in the mix, the board agreed to have the city enter into negotiations with FivePoint for a potential land exchange that would “provide Irvine with ownership of Hangar 10 and the existing pop-up village.”

In exchange, FivePoint would receive a site of equivalent size at the northeast corner of Great Park Boulevard and Ridge Valley, near Southern California Edison’s Irvine substation, which it would develop into affordable housing.

FivePoint is also using Almquist to development the retail center for its under development Great Park Neighborhoods; it is proposing to relocate the shopping center, with a grocery store, from the corner of Ridge Valley and Great Park Boulevard to the intersection of Bosque and Great Park Boulevard.

Irvine received five responses to its call for companies interested in partnering on the food and beverage services at the park, after which Almquist was identified as the top-rated respondent, officials said.

“The overall vision is for a unified (food and beverage program) throughout the park,” said Andrew Douglass, a staff analyst for the city.

Almquist’s Vice President of Development Tom Carpenter call the Great Park “such an incredible canvas to build upon.”

“How do we conduct this talent search for the best local operators — the most talented chefs, curators — and expand the search nationally? We need to think big,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said Almquist would deploy a three-three-three plan, which would bring to Great Park’s food and beverage plan equal parts local talent, including Great Park residents who are involved in the food and beverage industry, regional talent and national talent.

“I think it’s that local third that will give the project the soul,” Carpenter said.

While Councilmember Tammy Kim voiced overall support for Almquist’s proposed project – it got full board support except for Councilmember Mike Carroll who was absent – she said she has concerns regarding cultural competency, or understanding Irvine’s demographic and the food that residents expect.

“I would really hope that you would work hard in terms of curating the appropriate mix to fit our demographics,” Kim told Carpenter.

Carpenter agreed, saying, “Each project needs to tailor to the community it serves, but make it inclusive for everybody. We know the demographics in Irvine, but what we’re looking to create is what everybody can enjoy across the board.”

Whatever final agreement city staffers and Almquist negotiate will have to return to the Great Park Board and to the City Council for approval.

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