Touting a price tag of $1 billion, the city of Irvine took the first steps in development of the Great Park’s new framework plan with a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, May 23.

Local residents, city leaders and community groups attended the event, which included the live demolition of an old hangar at the former Marine Corp Air Station El Toro, now known as the ARDA site.

Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan said the city has been working on bringing this project into the public scope for decades, and was excited to begin the city’s next phase of development.

“As Mayor of Irvine, it is very fulfilling to see a long-time promise come to fruition through today’s groundbreaking ceremony,” Khan said. “The community has helped guide the park’s development since 2005, and I am pleased to be able to bring that vision to life.”

Great Park Chairman Mike Carroll expressed his excitement for the $1 billion project, adding that he is optimistic this project will become recognized as one of the most successful municipal projects in the nation.

“The groundbreaking of the next phase of development at the Great Park is just the beginning,” said Carroll. “The next phase not only brings 300 acres of incredible amenities and services for Irvine, Orange County, California, and beyond, it takes the city of Irvine to the next level. I am ecstatic to lead this unique and innovative charge and I believe that the Great Park will be one of the best metropolitan parks in the world.”

The first 300 acre phase of the project includes the demolition and site remediation of the ARDA site. The site, formerly MCAS El Toro, is slated to become the Botanical Gardens and Veteran’s Memorial Park.

The city also introduced a new interactive website dedicated to providing community updates and general information on the Great Park Framework plan. The site offers visitors an in depth look at the Great Park’s history and what is expected moving forward.

Additionally, the website includes a Great Park development timeline for the various regions of the park — the Veteran’s Memorial and Botanical Gardens, Cultural Terrace West and the Heart of the Park.

The city of Irvine anticipates working to complete the demolition and grading of the ARDA within two years, with construction beginning in June 2025. As demolition gets underway, the city will be working weekdays and weekends to complete the site remediation of the ARDA more than five days per-week.

“Demolition work will occur outside of typical commute hours — between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays — and should not impact Great Park neighborhoods, motorists, or the use of the Great Park sports fields after school,” the site reads.

City staff estimates that Veteran’s Memorial Park and Botanical Gardens will be completed by 2028.

The Great Park Framework plans anticipate construction beginning on Cultural Terrace West in June, with venues expected to open in Summer 2027. Construction on the Cultural Terrace West is expected to be complete by 2029.

Irvine will complete the first phase of the Great Park Framework plan with the completion of the Heart of the Park, which has plans for lakes, a great meadow and a $130 million outdoor amphitheater. Construction is expected to begin in August 2024, and has an estimated completed date of 2030.

Kristina Perrigoue, Irvine Public Information Officer, explained that while the city has provided timelines for the build out of the Great Park Framework, they aren’t meant to be exact.

“The timeline is an estimate that is contingent upon negotiations with external entities,” she wrote in an email to Irvine Weekly.

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