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Luxury Homes Set for Ex-Base

Development: Two companies acquire 238 acres of the old Tustin Marine site, for up to 1,910 dwellings.


The unnamed companies that were quietly buying up parcels at the closed Tustin Marine base have revealed themselves--as well as their plan to transform a large chunk of the ramshackle base into a colony of luxury homes.

Operating under the name HomeHelp and spending a total of $208 million in three online auctions, Lennar Homes and William Lyon Homes acquired 238 acres on the base from the Navy. As the last auction closed Thursday, ending a frantic scramble among developers in a rare opportunity for prime land in Orange County, the companies disclosed their identities.

They beat about a dozen competitors for the right to build up to 1,910 homes on the land. Of the 238 acres, 172 lie within Tustin city limits and the remainder in Irvine. The homes will be built at an average of seven to 12 to the acre in communities that will be called Tustin Villas, Moffett Meadows and Marble Mountain. Those communities will include at least 292 homes priced for moderate incomes.

But the companies say they have even bigger plans. They hope the acquisitions have positioned them to become the master builder for the 1,600-acre base. Tustin officials envision a hotel, office space, schools, a golf course and 2,690 more homes. The master developer to complete the project will be named by the city later.

"We're hoping this gives us a leg up to be master developer of the base," said Bob Santos, a division president at Lennar. The builders intend to break ground on their project by the end of 2003.

Lennar, which has been in the forefront of redeveloping military bases, is also working on a pair of naval bases in the Bay Area: Mare Island in Vallejo and Hunter's Point in San Francisco.

At the Tustin base, old military housing sits on the parcels Lennar and William Lyon acquired. Those buildings will be razed to make way for neighborhoods of luxury suburban homes similar to those in neighboring tracts.

The Tustin base is considered a plum property, near major freeways and employment centers in Santa Ana and Irvine.

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