The City of Irvine is moving faster than expected to consider Fluor Corp.'s controversial plan to develop the prime acreage surrounding its corporate headquarters.
Irvine Mayor David Sills said Wednesday that the council is scheduled to discuss the Fluor project and related issues at the end of June, instead of in September. Sills said the review can be expedited because the city's community development department is increasing its staff. Fluor, a giant engineering and construction company, is working in partnership with Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. toward building a 1.8-million-square-foot office, hotel and retail complex on 162 acres adjacent to the San Diego Freeway. Fluor sold the land to Trammell Crow last fall for about $340 million and retains an undisclosed interest in the project.
Meanwhile, Fluor and Trammell Crow have postponed the closing date for the deal from April 29 to July 31 because of delays in city approval. Trammell Crow officials said they consider such delays common in major real estate deals.
Fluor officials refused to discuss the status of the project Wednesday, but an attorney for Trammell Crow said the project is "going full bore" and its financing and other aspects are in no way jeopardized by the Irvine City Council study.
The financing for the Fluor-Trammell Crow project is being handled by First Winthrop Corp., a Boston investment banking firm that specializes in raising money by syndicating real estate deals. First Winthrop is responsible for raising about 50% of the funds. Sources close to the negotiations said First Winthrop is raising about $350 million, with the rest coming from local financial institutions.
"There is literally a whole group of people working around the clock on this" project, said Burt Fohrman, an attorney representing Trammell Crow, in a phone interview Wednesday. Fluor contends it has the right to build virtually anything on its land under a city zoning ordinance governing the expansion of corporate headquarters in Irvine. The Irvine city attorney disagrees. And other local developers, including the Irvine Co. and the Koll Co., urged the City Council to review the law and other planning issues before approving Fluor's plan.
In late March, over the protests of Fluor executives and two council members, the council voted for a six-month staff review of the city's corporate development ordinance.
"The critical questions that Fluor wants answered are now moved up to the last meeting in June," said Sills in a phone interview. He said, however, that even if Fluor gets the go-ahead from the council, the project would still require a conditional use permit and that could take several months.