University Park new home selection, 1966.

Irvine time capsule

by Ellen Bell

The Village of University Park opened in 1966 as a real-life expression of the Irvine Master Plan.

Eager homebuyers arrived early to purchase a new home in Irvine’s first village. Within 90 minutes, more than 32 homes had been sold. Families were drawn to the innovative design of the community, where lush greenbelts linked homes to parks and shopping, and children could walk to school without crossing the street.

Since most of the initial residents moved in at the same time, everyone was new in the neighborhood. An instant sense of connection grew during impromptu social gatherings at the Pavilion Pool and while watching the annual Fourth of July Bike Parade.

Pioneer families of University Park started the first churches and formed the first Little League teams, Scout troops and swim teams in what would become the City of Irvine. They were all attracted to the brand-new village — a model for many to come.

Today, University Park remains a testament to sound community planning. It is recognized nationally by students of urban planning for its high level of design quality. Author and architectural historian Alan Hess describes his first encounter with University Park when he was looking for a home nine years ago.

“I could see right away that the progressive planning ideals that I had learned about in architecture school had actually been built and were here,” Hess says. “The concept really happened, and it worked.”

Ellen Bell is an Orange County historian and author of “Irvine: Images of America.”