Irvine Company swaps plans for OC life science hub for housing

Revised plan calls for 1,200 apartments at the UCI Research Park in Irvine

Irvine Company Replaces Plans for OC Offices With Homes
Irvine Company's Donald Bren with rendering of UCI Research Park near MacArthur Boulevard and University Drive (Irvine Company, Getty)

The Irvine Company has torn up plans to build the largest life science office complex in Orange County, and now aims to put apartments on the 19-acre site instead.

The Newport Beach-based investor has revised plans for its Academy Point, pivoting to a 1,200-unit apartment complex at its UCI Research Park at 100 Innovation Drive, the Orange County Business Journal reported.

A year ago, it had planned to build four four-story office and research buildings with 532,000 square feet geared to medical, healthcare and biotech tenants near MacArthur Boulevard and University Drive. 

The life science complex known as Academy Point was to have exclusive access to UC Irvine, leading research hospitals, life science incubators and medical device companies in OC.

But the goal fell flat after office values plummeted and the multifamily market boomed, according to the Business Journal.

The company now wants to build housing instead near workforce hubs. It would be the first housing built at its 185-acre UCI Research Park, home to 75 companies in 36 buildings.

“From a master planning perspective, UCI Research Park is an ideal location for new housing, just steps from thousands of high-tech jobs and a top-ranked research university,” Jeff Davis, a senior vice president for the Irvine Company, told the Business Journal.

Preliminary plans call for a low-rise multifamily complex of 1,200 units, with all-electric homes and among the first in Irvine to have solar panels, on the northwest corner of the business park.

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To win approval, the Irvine Company must convince the city to update zoning from medical and research to residential. Entitlements could take 14 months. 

If approved, the apartment project would break ground in early 2025, with the first homes completed in 2027. 

In March, the Irvine Company teamed up with the city on a plan to build six apartment projects containing 4,500 homes near hubs for jobs, mostly around Irvine Spectrum The initiative aims to help Irvine reach its state-mandated goal to build 23,600 homes by 2029, near residents’ work.

The largest of the proposed developments is a 1,456-unit complex on a vacant lot in the Irvine Company’s Discovery Park office campus along the 5 Freeway near Sand Canyon Avenue and Laguna Canyon Road.

In July, Corona-based Watermarke Properties bought two eight-story offices at 200 and 201 East Sandpointe Avenue in Santa Ana for $36.3 million. It plans to raze at least one of the buildings and replace it with an unspecified number of apartments.

— Dana Bartholomew

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