With a chanted count of "three, two, one," a Caterpillar tractor punched through the tarmac at Tustin's former Marine base Tuesday, breaking ground on Legacy Park, an 820-acre development of schools, parks, homes, offices and shops that will increase the city's population 20%.
Builders hope to have some of the 2,105 planned homes ready for occupancy in 2008. About 22% of the housing will be "affordable" under state guidelines. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2020.
Legacy Park will be the core of the 1,600-acre community of Tustin Legacy on the site of the Marine base, which was closed in 1999. Eight hundred homes, part of the Tustin Fields development by John Laing Homes, have been completed within Tustin Legacy; a few thousand more are under construction by Lennar Corp. and William Lyon Homes, for a total of about 4,500.
Artist renderings of the community show an architecturally diverse landscape of sleek, European-style shopping plazas and a variety of housing, including stylish homes with wraparound porches and urban-style lofts.
The development will have an elementary and high school, a trail system and 170 acres of park and open space, in addition to 6.7 million square feet of commercial space for offices, shops and restaurants.
One of the project's top priorities is an extension of Tustin Ranch Road to Irvine, linking residential areas of Tustin to business centers in Irvine with a six-lane thoroughfare.
The Tustin Marine Corps Air Station was built in 1942, its two massive hangars designed to house blimps that patrolled the California coast for enemy submarines in World War II. The hangars, believed to be the largest free-standing wooden structures in the world, were declared national landmarks in 1978.
Tustin officials said they were trying to pay tribute to the base's historic role in the city with the development's name and in some of the architecture.
"We recognize that the base was such a big part of the community," Councilman Jerry Amante said. "We don't want to forget it."