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To the Wire : Lots of Work, Little Time Left to Finish Irvine Center


IRVINE — The signs say "Irvine Entertainment Center," but it was all work on Thursday for nearly 400 construction workers and skilled tradespeople who are scrambling to prepare the 250,000-square-foot complex for a Nov. 22 opening.


Irvine Co. officials acknowledge that the pace will have to grow even more furious during the remaining three weeks if all of the center's components are to open on time. During coming weeks, as many as 600 workers will be on site--with some working through the night.

The center's crown jewel--the $27-million, 21-screen Edwards Cinema megaplex--is still wrapped in exterior scaffolding, and its interior is thick with dust generated by crews that are installing floor tiles. The theater complex's massive lobby is still split in two by a massive construction scaffold, and outlines of massive snack counters are only now starting to take shape.

A huge Imax 3-D sight-and-sound theater won't be ready for the Nov. 22 opening, and it's possible that a handful of operators in the nearby food court won't be ready to serve meals.

But the progress charts in the construction headquarters trailer indicate that everything else in the restaurant, movie and retail center will be completed in time for G.O.D.--Grand Opening Day.

"It's going to be a close play at the plate, but we'll make it," Irvine Co. Vice President Keith C. Eyrichsaid after a brief afternoon tour of the project. "I've been through four of these before and they always come together."

To an outsider, only the massive Barnes & Noble superstore appears to be on track toward the Nov. 22 opening. The store's bookish feel was already evident Thursday as crews busily shelved books and installed cash registers.

But most of the massive entertainment center definitely remained a work in progress Thursday.

Huge palm trees that will line the main thoroughfare are in the ground. But thousands of potted plants, vines and other bits of greenery have yet to appear. Decorative light poles are in place, but crews have yet to add accompanying banners.

There's a gaping hole in the huge shelf that will house the food court's high-tech big-screen televisions. Crews are still tinkering with decorative water fountains that will serve as focal points in the big project. Carpenters were wrestling doors into place at Bertolini's, an Italian restaurant, and crews were installing decorative tile at Wolfgang Puck's eatery.

Throughout the complex, crews were applying chemicals that, overnight, give an "aged" look to freshly poured concrete walkways.

"I expect it to be 100% complete for the opening," Eyrich said as he stepped gingerly over a treated section of sidewalk. "But there are so many details, so many little things. It's really incredible."


In the Works

Orange County has four major retail projects underway and four proposed projects in the planning stages:


* Irvine Entertainment Center: 250,000 square feet, anchored by Edwards Cinema and Imax theater

* Park Place: 155,000 square feet, anchored by Edwards Cinema and Sport Chalet, in Irvine

* Spectrum 5 Retail Home Center: 130,000-square-foot home furnishings center in Irvine

* Metro Pointe: 400,000 square feet, near South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa


* Pacific Park Town Center: 400,000-square-foot addition to Super Kmart Center would be anchored by 24-screen theater, in Aliso Viejo

* Irvine Pavilion: 300,000-square-foot addition to the Price Club Center at Alton Parkway and Technology Drive

* Tustin Marketplace: 450,000-square-foot addition to existing Marketplace, to be anchored by an Edwards Cinema

* Plaza Pacifica: 600,000-square-foot shopping center, in San Clemente

Source: Grubb & Ellis Commercial Real Estate Services; Researched by GREG JOHNSON / Los Angeles Times

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