The Irvine Spectrum District, pictured here, is an important element of the city’s Master Plan, with 900 technology companies, housing and a major lifestyle center adding to Irvine’s balance and fiscal strength.

City life cycle reimagined

by Lucy Dunn

Lucy Dunn – President and CEO Orange County Business Council

Orange County is a special place. Each of its 34 cities is distinctive and great, but I have to admit that Irvine is unique among them.

Celebrating its 48th anniversary as a master–planned community, this city is a remarkable example of sustainable, vibrant living.

Traditional cities experience a typical “community life cycle,” much like a revolving wheel, as they move from “emerging” to “thriving” to “maturing” to “declining.” Then with reinvestment, there is a potential for “re-emerging.”

Irvine, however, because of its master planning, vision and continuous investment, has avoided this cycle, without decline.

It has matured into America’s safest city with the best parks and schools in California. Its fiscal strength, also tops in the U.S., ensures ample funds to maintain parks and roads and — unlike many cities — support its own local schools.

Continual Reinvestment

Even with this success, the city never stops investing in the future.

For example:

Infrastructure: To ease traffic, the city approved over $79 million for local street and mobility projects, including synchronizing more than 200 traffic signals on major streets.

Schools: With voters’ approval of Measure E in 2016, over $318 million is being invested in 28 schools within Irvine Unified School District.

Sustainability: Irvine Ranch Water District is installing the largest network of energy storage systems in the nation, powering technology for advanced water recycling and setting the standard for reuse.

Retail Centers: As consumer preferences have evolved, Irvine Company invested more than $200 million in Irvine Spectrum Center and $30 million in Woodbridge Village Center, transforming these centers in unexpected ways.

As one retail analyst remarked, “In other communities, stores wear out, signage gets old, colors fade, and parking lots fall apart. You don’t see that in Irvine.”

Instead, lush landscaping with water-saving drip irrigation and smart valves, mature trees, enhanced lighting and convenient seating invite people to connect and engage. However, if you want Wi-Fi, it’s right there! As are great gathering spaces, paseos and courtyards.

And unique amenities as well.

Irvine Spectrum Center’s Giant Wheel, with 52,000 energy-efficient LED lights capable of 16 million dazzling color schemes, has spectacular views, whether you’re at the top looking out over OC, or in the courtyard below mesmerized by the lights.

In fact, over 15 Irvine retail centers have been upgraded in just three years — unheard of in a traditional city.

Add that to an excellent system of bike paths, walking trails, thousands of acres of protected habitat and open space, and recreational activities from the mountains to the sea, demonstrating that Irvine’s master planning has delivered on the promises made almost 50 years ago.

The life cycle of a city — the everturning wheel of a community’s emergence and decline and back again — is reimagined here. We benefit every day by that vision, growing and thriving, without decline.