by Nancy Luna
The District at Tustin Legacy, a sprawling lifestyle center anchored by Whole Foods Market and Costco, opened with much fanfare in 2007.
But smaller tenants have struggled to survive at the Vestar-owned center, which suffered as the Great Recession hit. Shoppers also have criticized the odd layout of the parking lots, a maze-like system that triggers parking gridlock during peak hours. As the center approaches its 10-year anniversary this month, marketing director Shannon Campbell said Vestar is refreshing its lineup as leases come up.
“Since we are coming up on 10-years for The District, it also happens to be the end of several leases and we’ve really seized upon this as an opportunity to bring in fresh new concepts and breathe some new life into our tenant mix,” Campbell said in a statement. “In addition to bringing in more than half a dozen new retailers and restaurants this year alone, we are currently getting close to finalizing negotiations with several exciting new tenants that we look forward to announcing soon.”
One of the most significant changes: Prego Ristorante, which closed its Irvine location earlier this year, is replacing Bluewater Grill.
Other stores exiting include Juice it Up and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill closed Sunday, July 23. Last month Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill said they chose to close their restaurant. The fresh-Mex chain said it chose to leave the center for various reasons, including pursuing other locations with “optimal on-site parking for guests.”
Juice it Up, a smoothie brand based in Irvine, is scheduled to close Saturday, Aug. 12. “Vestar terminated our franchisee’s lease,” marketing director Shauna Parisi said. “It’s really unfortunate. It was such a good location.”
Parisi said the Irvine-based chain tried for a year to “continue the relationship” with Vestar. The shop has been there since the center opened, she said.
Vestar said the shop will be replaced by Pressed Juicery, a chain that sells cold-pressed juices.
Like Juice it Up, Bluewater Grill said Vestar terminated its lease.
Bluewater was initially slated to close in mid-September. However, the restaurant abruptly closed Sunday, Aug. 6.
On Monday, Prego, which operated in Irvine for 30 years, confirmed it was taking over the space. The Italian restaurant closed its Irvine location because the owners were unable to renew its lease with the Irvine Company. The developer said it was replacing Prego at the Irvine Towers with Davio’s, an East Coast Italian steakhouse.
Ruth and Tony Bedi, who bought Prego in 2009, said the Tustin restaurant will open in the fall. Longtime chef Ugo Allesina is returning. The redesigned restaurant will have a large, open bright dining room, with an expanded bar area, the couple said.
“Chef Ugo is excited to bring back signature items and build upon the menu with a Mediterranean focus, with continued emphasis on Italian cuisine. The kitchen will continue to focus on scratch-made dishes, from pastas to desserts,” the Bedis said in a statement.
estar said Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is also closing by the end of the month.
Vestar said it expects to open more a dozen new tenants in 2017. Other recent openings at the Tustin shopping center include Planet Fitness, Scent Avenue and Black Steel Barbershop.
Coming soon: The Halal Guys, Joon Shabu Shabu and Bear Cheese Tart. In the fall, Union RYDE, UCode and Bar Louie are coming, Vestar said.