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Vast Arts Complex at College Ruled Out

Orange County

June 25, 2002|JEFF GOTTLIEB | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A south Orange County community college board Monday unanimously killed a proposal to allow a developer to lease campus land for a $463-million privately funded arts and entertainment complex.

The proposal for Irvine Valley College would have been easily the largest project of its type at any California college or university, officials said. Faculty members objected to the proposal, saying they didn't see how the school would benefit. The South Orange County Community College District board of trustees met in closed session Monday to consider the plan.

The plan would have given developers a 99-year lease on 50 acres at Irvine Valley.

"It's giving away half the land at IVC," board Trustee Dorothy Fortune said Monday evening.

The proposal, which evolved over the past few months, called for construction on 25 to 35 acres of what are now orange groves and athletic fields at Jeffrey Road and Barranca Parkway. It would include a 2,000-seat theater; a 2,000-seat concert hall; a seven-story art gallery/planetarium; a four-story, 2,000-car garage; a seven-story hotel; a seven-story building of offices, shops and restaurants; a 13-acre movie production complex; a 5,000-seat baseball stadium; a 10,000-seat soccer and track stadium; a lake and botanical gardens.

The ambitious project would make the campus "one of the most important cultural centers in Southern California," Howard Gensler, IVC's dean of humanities and library sciences, wrote in a May 23 report to the college district chancellor, Raghu Mathur.

Faculty members said the project didn't appear to benefit instruction in any way. What they really needed was a much smaller theater appropriate for college productions, they said. The college has plans for a 400-seat performing arts center, to be completed in 2006.

The complex was to be built by the Newport Financial Group of Newport Beach. One company figure is Charles Ross, 91, of Laguna Woods, who proposed a similar project at UC Riverside, without success, Fortune said.

Larry Deshazer, director of Irvine Valley's Center for Applied Competitive Technology, said he brought Gensler and Ross together.

Ross said Monday he would not discuss the plan, but that if the district turned it down, he would take it elsewhere.

The board also made permanent Glenn Roquemore's interim appointment as campus president.

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