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What Will Irvine Look Like in 20 Years?

Monday, October 01, 2018

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Emile Haddad of Greater Irvine Chamber Leaders Circle member FivePoint is experimenting with something that at first glance appears antithetical to the Southern California lifestyle—a home without a garage. And a homeowner who’s not a car owner.

“These will be the first single-family homes with no garages,” Haddad said. “We all love our cars, but the minds of the next generation won’t love them as much as we do.”

It’s a proof-of-concept project that will entail 50 to 60 homes. A timeframe for opening hasn't been set, he said. A builder hasn't been chosen for the homes, which are being designed by Haddad’s Five Point Holdings LLC.

Haddad foresees a new generation that will embrace car sharing, thus eliminating gas, loan payments, insurance and other costs. He’s already prepared an enticing sales pitch.

“If you can go to a 28-year-old and say, ‘I’m giving you a car to share and I’m going to price the home 18% below other homes with a garage,’ I’m enabling that generation to get into home ownership and start building equity and move up the ladder of home ownership,” Haddad said.

If there’s anyone who can pull it off, it’s Haddad, the chairman and chief executive of Five Point, the largest master developer currently operating in Coastal California.

The Aliso Viejo-based developer is overseeing the master planning of 40,000 residential home and 23 million square feet of commercial space in the state, from Orange County to San Francisco.

Its portfolio includes Irvine’s Great Park Neighborhoods, a 2,100-acre community designed to have 9,500 home sites—4,873 sold as of last December—4.9 million square feet of commercial space and 61 acres of parks and 138 acres of trails.

The first four neighborhoods at the former El Toro Marine base have included a variety of different product types, ranging from traditional standalone homes, to OC’s first big batch of multigenerational product, to a multitude of three-story homes that are anchored by roof-top decks rather than a traditional backyard.

More change is on the way, according to Haddad.

As part of our Special Report on architecture, Haddad sat down with the Business Journal for an hour to explain what’s new in Orange County’s residential homes and what he sees happening in the next two decades. What follows is an edited version of his remarks.

Q: What is different in residential housing versus prior years?

A: You cannot look at the product without looking at the consumer. The consumer is changing. They’re looking for something different

Our generation was looking for a bigger home because we were entertaining in the home. The car was the main driver, excuse the pun. Everything we did was to entertain inside the house.

You have baby boomers downsizing. They still want to entertain and still have friends come over. That’s why you see us build rooftop patios.

Gen Y is starting to get into homeownership. Many in that generation want to live in Irvine and Orange County.

They want to entertain outside the house so they are looking for a smaller product that they can afford.

In Orange County, ethnic buyers are a growing segment. They want to keep the grandkids close. We have many homes with a master [bedroom] downstairs and a master upstairs so the grandparents can have the same quality.

You have diversity in terms of taste and living styles among the ethnic groups. A second kitchen that we call “dirty kitchen” is for groups that do heavy cooking.

Some have a one-bedroom apartment inside the home—meant for the kid coming home from college, the boomerang generation. They have privacy and the ability to live comfortably until they get their life in order.

We did away with the formal living room, which is really dead space. People rarely use it.

Today we are looking at a much more diversified product offering, both in the size as well as the price offering.

In the past, the band of pricing in OC was much tighter. Today, it is much wider.

Our prices in the Great Park Neighborhoods start from somewhere in the $500,000s, which is below 50 percent of the median home prices in Irvine, and go as high as $3 million.

The Great Park Neighborhoods is all flat so there is no premium for a view. When you have an area with the type of weather that we have, the more you can provide the opportunity for outdoor living, the more it will be attractive to people.

Q: What’s new in housing design that has really impressed you?

A: I don’t design products and then hope people like them. We do a lot of work to understand demographics and trends and tastes. Then we design communities and houses that cater to that demographic.

What’s impressed me is the wide range of products we offer.

A lot of people were skeptical about building rooftop entertainment in Irvine or putting contemporary architecture next to traditional next to American Heritage because that is not the common way of doing things.

What’s impressed me is the consumer acceptance.

Q: Is it true you are pushing for elevators in homes with at least three floors?

A: Yes. One of the biggest challenges for people at a certain age is when looking for a retirement type home, you cannot find one in Orange County. People are being pushed to live in the desert communities to find a single-story home.

Since land is expensive, we have to build up. Elevators are not widely used in production homes. Everyone looks at an elevator as an item of luxury. I look at it as an item of convenience. It’s not that complicated or expensive.

Q: Everybody talks about how the backyards are getting increasingly smaller.

A: In Irvine, an acre costs almost $6 million. Backyards have become very expensive.

Rather than merely shrink the backyards, we gave them a rooftop where you can sit and entertain with a barbeque, a TV and a bar. You have everything that’s in the backyard, but with a view.

In a perfect world, most everyone would like to live in a single-family detached home with a big backyard. We cannot provide that luxury for everybody.

There are lots of parks nearby with play equipment and open areas. That becomes your extended yard.

What we’re trying to do is get people out of their homes to socialize with their neighbors and to create relationships that have an emotional element.

We’ve built an amphitheater and sports facilities. What we tried to do is create connections among people. When parents watch kids play on the same team and one kid scores, they high-five each other. If you have people come out of the home, get to know each other and build relationships with more of an emotional experience, we believe those relationships will result in much deeper roots.

Q: What’s going out of style?

A: There will be a style for everybody. The days where we have one size fits all is behind us.

Q: What will the future of Irvine housing be?

A: When I started my career in the 1980s, we used to say four to five homes an acre. Most of the lots were a traditional 7,200 square feet. Today, there is no way you can do that. Home prices would be $3 million each.

You’ll start seeing density of more than 20 detached homes to an acre. If I tell you an acre is worth $6 million, you’re putting six homes on it, that’s a million a home just for the land. It’s hard to justify it.

You will see us gravitate to higher density because of affordability. Our homes will get denser as you get closer to the Irvine train station, which is under-utilized. You’ll see homes of three to five stories.

We’re creating a lifestyle to give an urban, downtown feel where you can walk to a café and there will be lots of entertainment. We’re working with the city of Irvine to build a downtown.

In 20 to 25 years, I’m sure you’ll see a lot of high rises. High rises in Orange County have been hit and miss. You have to place it in the right location next to a lot of activity.

Over the next two or three decades, I’m sure you’ll start seeing things go more vertically. We’re running out of land.

Q: You’re planning on residential homes on top of businesses? That feels New York-ish.

A: Right now, we’re in talks with the city. This is the lifestyle we’re looking for.

It’s going to feel like a true European Village. In my opinion, this will become the place where everyone will want to go. Hopefully we’ll start in 2020 and build it in a couple of years.

Q: Are Orange County homes replicated around the world?

A: Absolutely. It’s not only homes, it’s communities. I’ve been asked to go overseas and help different places build communities.

When you look at the Irvine Co. and Rancho Mission Viejo, those are companies that are icons in building master communities. The world looks to Orange County for guidance on how to build them.

I wake up in the morning and get excited about what I’m doing today.

Source: Orange County Business Journal

Category: Partner News