Bryan Starr, CEO of the Greater Irvine Chamber
Spring weather calls us back outside to enjoy Irvine’s open air shopping and dining. Bryan Starr, Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Irvine Chamber, provides his retail insights and forecasts for 2021.
What’s new and exciting in retailing 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 is a lot of news to report.
Two new H Marts are coming to Irvine – one in Northpark Plaza, the other in Westpark Plaza. The newly discovered store in the Spectrum Center will be a new store concept in which freshly prepared and unique foods are in the foreground. These are top notch grocers who are an exciting addition to Irvine.
In the dining room, the company has teamed up with Javier’s on an extraordinary new terrace. Pandor Bakery, a cool craft concept, just opened in the marketplace. And Little Sister, one of the best independent restaurants in SoCal, opens in Irvine this year.
In total, the company welcomed 29 new retailers last year. So it’s an exciting time to shop in Irvine.
The latest development at Woodbury Town Center is an expanded central green space with play areas for families.
What makes Irvine’s shopping different from other cities? Ordinary experiences are exceptional in Irvine. And shopping is a really good example. The Irvine master plan has ensured a complete retail environment since the city began 50 years ago. Neighborhood centers are linked to residential villages, while regional centers (Irvine Spectrum Center and The Market Place) offer the best shopping in the country. This attracts the brands we love as residents.
Irvine’s shopping experience has a feeling of being outdoors. Why this? The Irvine Company designed their centers like this. The open air concept takes full advantage of Irvine’s coastal climate. Open spaces and lush landscaping really make it look like a resort. That was a differentiator for Irvine over the past year. Our dealers – restaurants and gyms in particular – have been able to use these outdoor spaces to continue serving the Irvine community.
Outdoor dining at Orchard Hills Shopping Center takes advantage of the local climate and sunshine.
What was the history of Irvine retail last year? We saw the importance of having a long term owner of Irvine’s retail centers. It gave us opportunities that were not possible in other cities. For example, restaurants had a consistent and practical “curb” program, while well-designed “pop-up” areas allowed merchants to continue doing business outside of the company. It also fostered the community spirit with drive-in movies and even comedy shows in the parking garages of the Irvine Spectrum Center. This partnership was a key story in Irvine’s retail resilience over the past year.
Why was that important for our city? The daily elements of life that we value as residents – parks, public safety, and slippery streets – are in large part funded 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 helping our local dealers and convenience. It’s also about supporting the qualities that make Irvine the best place to live in the nation.