Irvine Spectrum Center’s architecture, open-air design and lush landscaping make it feel like a resort.

Big news in Irvine retail

by Bryan Starr

Bryan Starr, Greater Irvine Chamber CEO

Spring weather is calling us back outside to enjoy Irvine’s open-air shopping and dining. Greater Irvine Chamber Chief Executive Officer Bryan Starr provides his insights and forecasts on retail in 2021.

What’s new and exciting with retail in Irvine right now? I spoke to the retail experts at Irvine Company about the past year and what to look for in 2021. There’s a lot of news to share.

Two new H Marts are coming to Irvine – one in Northpark Plaza, the other at Westpark Plaza. Newfound Market at Spectrum Center will be a new market concept with an emphasis on freshly prepared and unique foods. These are best-in-class grocers that are exciting additions for Irvine.

On the dining front, the Company partnered with Javier’s on an extraordinary new patio. Pandor Bakery, a cool artisan concept, just opened in The Market Place. And Little Sister, one of the best independent restaurants in SoCal, will open in Irvine this year.

Overall, the Company welcomed 29 new retailers last year. So it’s an exciting time to shop in Irvine.

The latest evolution at Woodbury Town Center is an expanded central green area with play areas for families.

What makes Irvine’s shopping different from other cities? Ordinary experiences are extraordinary in Irvine. And shopping is a really good example. The Irvine Master Plan ensured a complete retail environment from the city’s beginnings 50 years ago. Neighborhood centers connect to residential villages, while regional centers (Irvine Spectrum Center and The Market Place) offer the finest shopping in the nation. This attracts the brands we love as residents.

There’s an outdoor feeling to Irvine’s shopping experience. Why is that? Irvine Company designed its centers that way. The open-air concept takes full advantage of Irvine’s coastal climate. Open spaces and lush landscaping really make it feel like a resort. That’s been a differentiator for Irvine this past year. Our merchants – especially restaurants and fitness studios – were able to use these outdoor spaces to continue to serve the Irvine community.

Outdoor dining at Orchard Hills Shopping Center takes advantage of the local climate and sunshine.

What was the story of Irvine retail last year? We saw just how important it is to have a long-term owner of Irvine’s retail centers. It gave us opportunities that weren’t possible in other cities. For example, restaurants had a consistent and convenient “curbside” program, while well-designed “pop-up” areas allowed for merchants to continue business outside. It also fostered community spirit with drive-in movies and even comedy shows on top of Irvine Spectrum Center parking garages. That partnership was a key story of Irvine’s retail resilience last year.

Why was that important for our city? The daily elements of life we value as residents – parks, public safety and smooth roads – are funded in large part by shopping in Irvine. The city receives a portion of sales tax revenue from every dollar spent in local centers. So shopping in Irvine is about more than just supporting our local merchants and convenience. It’s also about supporting the qualities that make Irvine the best place to live in the nation.

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