by Brooke Edwards Staggs
A prime pocket of real estate, smack in the middle of Orange County, was halfway built out when the recession hit.
Developer Shea Homes bailed in 2010. That left Tustin Legacy — spread over 1,584 acres that were once part of Tustin Marine Corps Air Station — a jarring mix of tightly packed homes and open fields, modern retail and aging military installations.
After five years of planning, infrastructure work and construction, the second half of Tustin Legacy will finally start to welcome its first residents in 2015.
"I’d say the next two to three years are going to be very busy out there," City Manager Jeff Parker said. "And we’re very happy about that."
The first residents moved in over the weekend at Anton Legacy, a 225-unit apartment complex across from The District shopping center. The entire complex should be open by mid-April, company CFO Trisha Malone said, with 60 income-restricted units still available for lease.
Amalfi Apartments should finish construction of its 533-unit complex in the spring. Irvine Co. is building the luxury apartments east of Tustin Ranch Road, adjacent to The District, and spokesman Bill Rams with Cornerstone Communications said leasing is strong.
Standard Pacific and its partner builders are also making progress on Greenwood, a 375-home community that marks the first single-family homes to be built at Tustin Legacy in three years. Details are trickling out about spacious floor plans and pricing for Greenwood’s four neighborhoods, with model homes expected to open in April and first residents moving in this summer.
Together, the three developments are expected to add 1,133 homes to the 2,100 or so now in Tustin Legacy. That should boost the population there by around 2,700 people.
With momentum building once again, one major question remains: What will become of the rest of Tustin Legacy?
Original plans by Shea Homes called for building another 1,000 homes, 6.7 million square feet of commercial space and 170 acres of parks on vacant land surrounding the massive blimp hangars at the center of Tustin Legacy.
But city staff has been working for some time on an update to the specific plan for that area, Parker said. While they’re being careful not to make changes that would draw more traffic, Parker said it looks like the new plan will call for a bit less commercial space and a higher density of homes — particularly to the north, near the Metrolink station along Edinger Avenue.
A draft of that specific plan should be complete and ready for public review by the end of March, Parker said.
In two or three months, the city hopes to select a company to develop Cornerstone I and II. Those commercial zones will feature “high-tech, high-end office buildings” at Armstrong Avenue and Barranca Parkway, Parker said.
“Hopefully we can attract some internationally and nationally known companies to come to Tustin,” Parker said.
Construction should also start this summer on Veterans Sports Park at Tustin Legacy, along Valencia Avenue at Severyns Road. It will be the city’s largest park at 31.5 acres, with 23 lighted fields and courts, a skate park, water play area and veteran’s memorial.
The city still has to overcome its biggest challenge in figuring out the best way to reuse the historic blimp hanger that towers over Tustin Legacy, Parker said. The Navy still owns both hangers but plans to transfer one to the city and the other to the county.
So long as final plans firm up and the economy stays on track, Parker said he expects the entire Tustin Legacy area to be built out within the next 10 years.