Anaheim develops a denser, more urban core
January 12, 2017
By Gabrielle Paluch
It’s not all about the Mouse Ears in Anaheim. The constant expansion in and around Disneyland notwithstanding, there is plenty of development in the works — both in the city’s former industrial base, known as the Platinum Triangle, and in its long-neglected historic downtown, now dubbed CtrCity.
The building boom stems from a 2004 rezoning of the area to allow for increased density and more residential development. Experts say that while the rezoning went into effect immediately, the 2008 financial crisis substantially delayed the impact because Anaheim was slow to recover.
The Platinum Triangle is a sprawling 820-acre area to the east of the Disneyland Resort, located between the Santa Ana River and Interstate 5. City planners hope to transform this sparsely populated low-rise commercial corridor into a dense, urban setting with multifamily housing and mixed-use projects. Currently, Platinum Triangle projects worth $4.5 billion are under construction, according to city spokesperson Mike Lyster.
The rezoning also prompted developers to invest in CtrCity, which is located about one mile north. More than 2,000 townhomes, condos and apartments were added in the past decade to CtrCity, where the population has increased by 50,000. Over 4 million square feet of multifamily homes is currently under development, according to CoStar.
“Disney drew economic activity away from the historic downtown, causing it to wither on the vine,” John Woodhead, the executive director of community and economic development for the City of Anaheim, said of CtrCity’s past. “We had some urban blight, frankly.” He added that the response may have been extreme. In 1973, the city bulldozed vacant buildings over some 100 acres of the downtown that had fallen into disrepair, losing a large number of Anaheim’s historic structures in the process.
“We have been repenting ever since,” said Woodhead. “We wanted to repopulate our downtown after we essentially leveled it overnight, and it took a long time. There were a lot of empty lots.”
As usual, development continues at a red-hot pace in and around Disney, which has had an outsized impact on the city since the theme park opened in 1955. Already the city’s largest employer, Disney is adding a $1.5 billion “Star Wars”-themed land, which will include a nearly 7,000-space parking structure, transit hub and pedestrian bridge to the theme parks. Two luxury hotels are in the works nearby: the 466-room JW Marriott Anaheim in the GardenWalk mall, and an as-yet-unnamed 580-room luxury hotel located directly across the street from the park.
Located a stone’s throw from Disneyland, the Anaheim Convention Center complex, including hotels, sits on over 1,100 acres. A $190 million, 200,000-square-foot expansion has been proposed. Plans include flexible meeting space with a 10,000-square-foot balcony overlooking Katella Avenue, the theme parks and Disneyland Resort fireworks.
“We are seeing an unprecedented level of investment in Anaheim,” said Lyster. “It’s a direct result of efforts we have made to encourage investment as well as Anaheim’s enduring appeal as a place for people the world over to visit.”
The City of Anaheim owns Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, which both lie within the Platinum Triangle, and planners would like to redevelop the 130 acres of asphalt surrounding the stadium.
“We see a lot of opportunity around the stadium to create the kind of experience you see in Downtown Los Angeles with Staples Center,” Lyster said.
As for CtrCity, Lyster points to the positive effect on the area of redevelopment projects like the one at the former Sunkist canning factory, a 12,600-square-foot, Mission-style building built in 1919 that escaped the bulldozers. Developer Shaheen Sadeghi of LAB Holdings transformed it into a communal food hall with 28 food vendors. Known as the Packing House, it opened in 2014. It was designed to recall the nostalgia of Anaheim’s bygone downtown, with salvaged objects from demolished historic buildings.
“What we’ve seen in CtrCity is a lovely set of amenities that make development around it more attractive,” said Woodhead, “For a long time, visitors have asked what authentic things there are in Anaheim. Until recently, we haven’t been able to point to something unique.”
Jefferson Stadium Park
Texas-based developer JPI — whose first Platinum Triangle project, the Jefferson Platinum Triangle, is currently leasing and nearing completion — will break ground on its second Platinum Triangle project in the spring of 2017. The $225 million, 400-unit multifamily development will be sited on nearly 18 acres at 1969 East Gene Autry Way. Dubbed Jefferson Stadium Park, it is slated to open in 2018. Grand China Fund, a Beijing-based private equity real estate fund, is an investor, in a new partnership for the developer. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said in a statement that the development “represents the vision our city has had for Platinum Triangle, including the highest level of architectural features centered around an environment that encourages community engagement.” JPI plans to invest a total of $500 million in the neighborhood.
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