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Urban Village Concept Wins the Neighbors Over

February 07, 1988|BARNETT SUSSMAN | Barnett Sussman is a Times real estate writer. and

MacArthur Place, a $600-million urban village, mixed-use development in Santa Ana, may be on the road to approval, thanks in part to support from neighbors, many of whom don't want it.

"It's the lesser of a lot of evils," explained Richard Merritt, whose home is near the proposed 66-acre development at MacArthur Boulevard and Main Street.

Merritt said that neighborhood objections to any type of development are based primarily on the expected increase of traffic.

The project would be built on what now is largely farm land.

Initial Approval

The development has been reviewed by the Santa Ana City Council, and approval could be granted Feb. 16.

MacArthur Place is a project put together by 34-year-old Roger Torriero.

Another developer had proposed a sports arena but opposition from Merritt and other members of the community killed it.

Following the turndown of the stadium, Torriero proposed his project, which he described as an urban village--a mixture of offices, shops, homes, at least one hotel, and possibly a performing arts theater. The project would be built over a 15- to 20-year period.

Additional Land

Torriero's group, BGS Partners, includes his company, Griffin Realty Corp., Santa Ana; BCE Development, a subsidiary of Bell Canada, and members of the Sakioka family, owners of 53 acres of the farm land part of the site.

The partnership proposes to buy the farm land and an additional 13 acres being used by Emerson Electric Co., a computer parts manufacturing facility.

Merritt attributes the acceptance of Torriero's project, as compared to the sports area, to the urban village concept and to Torriero's meetings with the neighbors.

Torriero's approach to the building of neighborhood support was to create what he called a stakeholders council--a group composed of neighbors and others who had a stake in the project. Meetings were held during evening hours at local schools.

For the first meeting, held last February, he sent out 5,000 notices and 88 persons signed up to be members of the stakeholders council or, at least, receive information about it. A mailing list of 150 names was finally established.

At these meetings, Torriero and other members of the project discussed the status of the project and the issues involved. Twice he brought from New York the project's urban planner, M. Paul Friedberg.

The purchase and development would be done through the Santa Ana Redevelopment Agency.

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