Anaheim Condos Press On, Irvine Plans Slow

Anaheim Condos Press On, Irvine Plans Slow

Mueller, Mark

Two of the first developers to build homes in Anaheim’s Platinum Triangle are taking a more cautious approach for the commercial area around John Wayne Airport in Irvine.

A pair of projects for the Irvine Business Complex, totaling 1,000 homes and apartments, was recently withdrawn from the city’s list of proposed developments by Windstar Communities LLC of La Jolla and Los Angeles* KB Home.

Those companies are in the midst of building and selling some 640 condos in the former industrial area around Angel Stadium of Anaheim, in separate projects.

Windstar nixed plans for a 686-apartment complex, which would have been the fourthlargest project in the Irvine Business Complex based on unit count. And KB Home no longer is moving ahead with a high-rise condominium tower, 2900 McCabe, on the east side of the San Diego (1-405) Freeway.

KB Home still has 156 condos under way elsewhere in the area. As for Windstar, company officials said they haven’t completely abandoned plans for apartments in Irvine.

That said, the project withdrawals are the latest signs of developers pulling back locally during the slow housing market.

Homebuilders today “need to get back to the basics. We were out of whack (in recent years),” said Jay Moss, chief executive of Irvine’s Mosaic Homes, and the former head of KB Home’s Orange County operations.

Officials for both companies said the demand for urban-type developments in OC-both in Anaheim and Irvine-have staying power.

“We’re still seeing good interest here, especially as there’s been a greater move to more affordability. Higher-density (projects) in the right locations, and right price, will sell,” said Drew Kusnick, president of KB Home’s urban development division.

In Anaheim, KB Home is under construction on a 250-condo development dubbed Anavia, along South State College Boulevard. The first homes for the mid-rise project will be completed in fall 2008. Sales will begin in November, Kusnick said.

KB Home is building a similar mid-size building in Irvine, called Carlyle at Colton Plaza, where 156 condos are under way. Move-ins are scheduled for September 2008, while sales should begin next month.

The Carlyle project is about half the size of KB Home’s 2900 McCabe, a proposed 314-home development near Jamboree Road.

The project would have included a 16-story tower comprising 138 condos. Those tower plans were shelved recently and KB Home fell out of escrow to buy the 4-acre site.

The decision to back away from the McCabe project is likely good news for Costa: Mesa-based surfwear maker Hurley International LLC.

Hurley, a unit of Nike Inc., leases an 85,000-square-foot warehouse at 2900 McCabe Way, but would have had to relocate the distribution center if the housing conversion plan went forward. Menlo Worldwide of Palo Alto runs the center for Hurley.

Stadium Lofts

Windstar Communities was the first developer to open homes at the Platinum Triangle, with its 390-unit Stadium Lofts condo project along East Katella Avenue.

Buyers started moving into Stadium Lofts early this year. Homes at the project, which run from $300,000 to the mid-$600,000s, are about halfway sold, according to Windstar principal Eric Heffner. Retail space at the development, totaling about 18,000 square feet, is completely leased, largely by casual restaurants.

Sales at Stadium Lofts in the past few months have been impacted by prospective buyers-who already were qualified for mortgages-pulling back because of news playing up the uncertainty in the market, according to Heffner.

The second big local project that Windstar planned-Irvine Crossings-is less of a certainty. The 686-apartment community near the intersection of Main Street and Von Karman Avenue was withdrawn from the city’s list of active projects a few months ago.

The company is “re-evaluating” its Irvine Crossings project, but hasn’t completely pulled the plug, Heffner said. The company’s focus right now is ‘building good (homes) in good locations,” he said.

Heffner said his company would also consider taking on more work in Anaheim. The company was one of the final three development groups bidding earlier this year for a 50-acre site next to Angel Stadium, but lost out to a joint bid by Archstone-Smith Trust and Hines Interests LP.

If Archstone and Hines were to pull out over ongoing issues pertaining to housing development at the site, Windstar would still be interested in the land, Heffner said.

Copyright CBJ, L. P. Sep 24-Sep 30, 2007

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