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Spanning more than 1,300 acres (nearly twice the size of New York’s Central Park), the Great Park of Orange County started as a design competition held by the Great Park Corporation on March 2005 on a 1,347-acre former Marine Corps El Toro Air Station, with an intention to create a grand park with a regional and local draw to Irvine. The Orange County Great Park will transform the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro into the first great metropolitan park of the 21st century. Located in the geographic center of Orange County, California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, the Great Park is easily accessible to more than 10,000,000 Southern California residents via freeway or railway.
The finalist, Ken Smith, designed a Master Plan that included three key elements: The Canyon, that includes a meandering oasis for exploration and reflection; The Habitat Park, to experience the region's diverse plant habitat and ecological heritage; and The Fields and Memorial Park, to accommodate active park use and celebrate the site's cultural, agricultural, and military history.
However, due to the failing housing market and subsequent loss of an anticipated $1.4 billion dollars in property taxes from the state, the city of Irvine approved a modified design in November 2013. The approved design was championed by developer FivePoint Communities Inc., who will be providing the city with $200 million to develop 688 acres into a park (188-acre golf course, a 176-acre sports park, a 178-acre wildlife corridor, 72 acres of agricultural land, and 75 acres of woodland and a small upper canyon) and $10 million for improvements to the park's main entrance, in exchange for the ability to double the amount of homes entitled to build—up to 9,500 houses. The public-private partnership also covers operations and maintenance until 2024.
The Great Park is expected to be completed by middle of 2019.
Orange County Great Park Comprehensive Master Plan was awarded the American Institute of Architect's Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design in 2009.