Experience Spectrum in a whole new light
At a time when America’s cities are adapting to new retail challenges and vying for jobs as if their future depends on it — because they do — Irvine has a not-so-secret weapon: its gleaming Spectrum District.
A third of all Fortune 500 companies have offices there, while a thriving mall attracts 17 million visitors a year, about as many as Disneyland. Upscale apartments and new homes connect to jobs, restaurants, entertainment and shopping with a dynamic mix of convenience, quality and fun.
The Irvine Spectrum District, locally known as “Spectrum,” is the final step in the continued perfection of Irvine’s master plan: the recognition that this city of villages needed an economic engine and cosmopolitan attractions.
“The Spectrum is one of the most successful examples of a mixed-use neighborhood I’ve seen anywhere in the world,” says Nate Cherry, director of urban planning at architecture and design firm Gensler, who credits the Irvine Company’s blueprint for live-work-play success.
Alan Hess, longtime resident, architect and author, calls the Spectrum “a 21st century update to traditional downtown Irvine.”
An engine of growth
“There’s a work-life balance you can have at Spectrum that’s hard to get anywhere else,” says Marc Bell, CEO of Terran Orbital, the world’s leading manufacturer of nanosatellites. Bell, which chose Irvine for its company headquarters in 2013, says the district’s amenities strengthen its hand in recruiting new employees, helping its business grow.
Today, the vast majority of Terran Orbital’s international employees work in the 400 Spectrum office tower or its satellite factory, also located in the Spectrum, and live within walking distance in luxury apartments.
“Everything here is so well planned that there is literally no commuting,” says Bell. “We live, work and dine here, and we hardly ever leave. In my first six months here, I’ve only consumed half a tank of gas. »
Located in central Irvine, in the heart of Orange County, the Spectrum has helped attract more coveted high-tech jobs to the area than anywhere else in North America, according to a recent report by giant real estate firm CBRE. . Employers in technology hubs across the country – in a range of industries from finance to IT to life sciences – have recognized and appreciated Irvine’s carefully crafted benefits.
“Irvine is the new Silicon Valley,” says Huolin Xin, associate professor of physics and astronomy at UC Irvine. “If you want to attract talent, it’s here.”
Major global companies such as BlackBerry, Amazon and gaming juggernaut Blizzard Entertainment – famous for inventing World of Warcraft – have long had a presence here, increasing the appeal for young companies with big ambitions.
“We live, work and dine here, and we hardly ever leave. In my first six months here, I’ve only consumed half a tank of gas. – Marc Bell, CEO of Terran Orbital, the world’s leading manufacturer of nanosatellites
Electric truck maker Rivian moved hundreds of tech jobs from Plymouth, Michigan to the Spectrum in early 2021, adding to the roughly 1,000 jobs it already had here. Among its reasons, the company said, are access to top tech talent and proximity to the beach.
At home in the Spectrum
One of Rivian’s many happy recruits is Bryan Shamasko, an engineer who was drawn to both the company’s innovative green brand and the benefits of living at Spectrum.
His brief commute to work — cut in half from his old job outside Detroit — gives Shamasko, 27, and his girlfriend more time to catch a sunset at the beach or explore open space via pathways that connect to the door and lead of their apartment community. to the Pacific Ocean. At home at Promenade Village Apartments, they can choose from four saltwater pools.
“It’s like living in a resort,” Shamasko says, recalling the 28-degree weather the day they left Michigan.
The Spectrum’s six luxury apartment communities and sleek new homes stand out from traditional commercial districts, attracting employees who prefer to walk or bike, reducing local traffic.
Living in the neighborhood also puts you steps away from the Irvine Spectrum Center, with its dazzling array of dining, entertainment, and shopping arranged along open-air paseos and landscaped courtyards of date palms, olive trees, and Italian cypresses. .
Success breeds success
Over the years, the Spectrum Center’s unique energy has helped many of its tenants thrive, inside and outside Irvine.
“The Spectrum Center put us on the map,” says Verlie Payne, owner and chef of Hudsons Cookies. Transplanted to New York with a former career selling financial software, Payne opened a store downtown in March 2021 and has been thrilled with traffic and sales.
“Being at the Spectrum is like being on the 50-yard line,” she says. “There’s nowhere else you can get this kind of traffic, and people tell us they follow the smell of our baking to our doorstep.”
Payne’s success in Irvine has sparked interest from other mall owners, and she says she’s now having “several conversations” with them as she plans her next expansion. She joins several other retailers whose Spectrum Center location has boosted their prospects.
“It’s all about quality, with a lot of conscious decisions about landscapes and colors that people have spent a lot of time and energy on – and it shows.” –Nate Cherry, Gensler
PF Chang’s, which now has some 300 restaurants worldwide, was one of the first restaurants to open at the Spectrum when the center debuted in 1995.
Oakley, which today has nearly 200 stores in the United States and Canada, opened its first physical store at the Spectrum Center in 1999.
The Apple Store, which launched at the center in 2006, moved and expanded 12 years later into what is now one of the brand’s most stunning locations, with an all-glass exterior overlooking a giant fountain. “This store is pretty much unparalleled and can only happen at the Spectrum as it is designed with the integration of public space,” says Cherry.
When Javier’s upscale Mexican restaurant opened downtown in 2004, it was just the second of five West Coast restaurants now owned by Javier Sosa, a former dishwasher who emigrated from Tijuana. at 18 years old. Sosa’s daughter, Silvia, who runs the Spectrum Center restaurant, remembers having lunch at the center with her father in the late 1990s. “Even then, he loved the Spectrum,” she says. “He used to say: I want this place!”
Last year, the restaurant doubled the size of its outdoor patio, where diners can dine surrounded by bird-of-paradise plants, banana trees and palm trees.
Don’t call it a mall – the proper industry term is “lifestyle center,” since Spectrum Center offers so much more than shopping. Green Street Advisors, a real estate firm, ranks the center among a few select similar locations in the country to receive an A-plus-plus rating, based on factors including retailer success, foot traffic, store quality and l outward appeal.
“It’s this very carefully curated retail environment,” Cherry explains with Gensler. “It’s all about quality, with a lot of conscious decisions about landscapes and colors that people have spent a lot of time and energy on – and it shows.”
An “unparalleled” energy
Many Irvine residents find Spectrum Center to be the backdrop to their social lives, regardless of life stage.
The range of entertainment options includes the 21-screen Regal Irvine Spectrum, America’s most popular Regal Theater, and one of the country’s most popular comedy clubs, the Irvine Improv.
A major draw is “shoppertainment,” featuring weekend exercise classes, toddler activities, a winter vacation ice rink, and an ever-changing cast of musical performers.
Ava August, 16, who has been singing and playing music in public since she was 10, remembers her first gig at the center when she was still in sixth grade.
“It was one of those surreal moments because while I was singing a huge crowd started to form – like 50 or 60 people – and it just reinforced how much I love the music,” says- she.
A year later, at age 13, August auditioned on “The Voice.” She has since appeared on “American Idol” and to sold-out crowds at games for the Rams, Lakers, Dodgers, Kings and Los Angeles Angels. But she also returned to the Spectrum Center dozens of times to sing and play ukulele, guitar and piano in the courtyard outside Old Navy.
“On summer nights, the courtyard fills with people listening, dancing and crowding around,” says August. “The Spectrum’s energy is simply unmatched.”