Just minutes from John Wayne Airport and separated from the densely occupied MacArthur corridor by a greenbelt and wildlife preserve, the new 10-story-high University Tower has become the most visible addition to The Marketplace, adjoining UC Irvine.
The $30-million office structure at 4199 Campus Drive, is a development of Ferguson Partners and the only non-Irvine Co.-owned amenity in the retail and entertainment center.
With an 18-month full occupancy projection, University Tower, open almost a year, is well ahead of that projection. And, according to developer John Ferguson, its current 70% occupancy proves that an office building at University Town Center, considered to be an unlikely success, did find its niche.
"I traveled to several major universities throughout the country and found that office buildings situated in the perimeter of those communities, were self-sustaining and perpetually occupied," Ferguson said, adding that most institutions welcome additional space to house non-classroom activities.
The developer recalls standing on a grassy field across from UC Irvine in 1983, with partner Alan Davison, and envisioning the land that was then an open field (reserved for The Marketplace project and an ever-growing number of town houses and apartments) as the future "Westwood Village" of Orange County.
"Anyone could sense the future growth for that area. And it was reasonable to assume that with $1 billion being spent at UCI, its student population would surely double in the next decade.
"The collaborative efforts of the Irvine Co., city of Irvine and the university, also indicated that the site would become the cultural and recreational center for the surrounding community."
University Tower's signed leases carry an aggregate value of $9.4 million and represent 70% of the nearly 200,000 square feet of leasable office and retail space.
UC Irvine occupies about 30,000 square feet of space in the tower devoted to various administrative functions such as accounting, personnel, payroll and information systems.
Other tenants committed to long-term leases include Executive Connection, with a series of executive suites; American Senior Inns, which develops, builds and manages full-service apartments for seniors; the law offices of Hugh Breckenridge and Klein & Szekeres; New Century Petroleum, and Simon, McKinsey, Miller, Zommick, Sandor & Dundas.
Christopher B. Mahon, chief operating officer for Ferguson Partners Asset Management, managing partner for the project, attributes the leasing success of University Tower to support from the university and the attractiveness of the area for principals of medium-sized firms living close by, as well as the broad range of upscale amenities offered at The Marketplace.
Designed by WZMH Group of Los Angeles, University Tower's exterior features a regular grid pattern of horizontal and vertical concrete strips and square reflective glass windows. Its engineering and mechanical systems utilize the latest technologies. Four elevators service the subterranean and office levels.
University Tower's nine floors rise above a ground retail level and two subterranean levels providing either tenant storage areas or space for "back office" support including computer operations.
The building is linked to its parking areas and The Marketplace by means of a pedestrian connection which also serves as an exhibit area and retail tenant space.
The main lobby is finished in Italian marble and houses a computerized directory system which, in addition to listing building tenants, can also announce events throughout The Marketplace, showing maps of the area and pinpointing nearby services.
Currently under development by Ferguson Partners is Dimension Business Park, a 90-acre industrial, commercial and retail park near Irvine, three industrial buildings in the Irvine Spectrum, El Toro area, and a 180,000-square-foot community retail center in Corona.