The Market Place: Celebrating 35 years

September 6th 2023

Back in the mid-1980s, Irvine Company commissioned a leading international architect to help build something bold and beautiful on 165 acres just off the I-5.

Ricardo Legorreta came through with the award-winning design for The Market Place: a live‑work-play destination unlike any other in America at that time. Its eye-catching features included distinctive 100-foot light towers, geometric shapes, fountains and dense groves of palm trees.

As The Market Place celebrates its 35th anniversary, we sat down with Irvine Company Senior Vice President Jeff Davis to learn more about the center.

Why was The Market Place’s design a big deal?

If you drive through parts of Southern California, you’ll see mile-long strip malls with no identity. The Market Place, with its master-planned design and bold architecture, had a sense of place from the beginning, and that attracted the brands people wanted. One newspaper called it an “instant OC landmark,” and I think that’s accurate.

Can you describe the live-work-play design?

As master planners and master builders, we have the unique ability to create a vision for a rather large area to ensure all the pieces work together. With The Market Place, we master planned a world-class shopping and dining destination adjacent to new resort-style apartment communities and more than a million square feet of premium office space. All these land uses complement each other. If you want to live near restaurants, shops and even your job, you can.

What makes the dining scene special?

Our customers ask for one-of-a-kind dining experiences, and we work hard to deliver that. The Market Place offers more than 47 restaurants, from fast-casual favorites to chef-driven destinations. Popular favorites like BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and California Pizza Kitchen are complemented with independents such as Taco Rosa and Pandor Artisan Bakery and Cafe. One new restaurant to try is Pacific Catch, a West Coast seafood restaurant that features an attractive patio, an open-air cocktail bar and a sustainably sourced menu.

What about shopping?

We like to say The Market Place has the best of everything under the sun. From lifestyle brands such as Athleta and Sephora to furniture powerhouses that include Ethan Allen and Mathis Home, to four specialty grocers, it’s all right here, and it’s all convenient. It’s also beautiful. More than 3,000 trees, fountains and broad plazas make it an enjoyable place to be as you get your shopping done.

Jeff and Erica Chu with their two daughters. Erica says the family visits The Market Place “at least once a week” – she does a Target run, and the girls love Yogurtland.

What’s new?

We’ve made it our mission not only to create special, cutting-edge destinations, but to maintain and upgrade them continuously to meet the needs of the community, and there are several examples of that at The Market Place.

At the office campus, we recently completed a multimillion-dollar reinvestment to create new outdoor workspaces, fitness amenities and on-site dining options. This continual renovation has attracted top companies and thousands of quality jobs.

In May 2023, the City Council voted unanimously to approve apartment homes designed for young professionals and essential workers, including nurses, police officers and teachers, in an underused area of the center. Construction has commenced, and these much-needed new homes are expected to be available in 2025.

We also partnered with 24 Hour Fitness to create a new club that opened in early August 2023, offering more than 48,000 square feet of cutting-edge exercise equipment, a new lap pool and other modern amenities – even an infrared sauna.

Looking ahead, we are starting to plan a central green near the Regal Edwards theater as a new place to gather with friends or for organized activities – similar to the Giant Wheel Lawn at Irvine Spectrum Center. Our planners are developing designs that are expected to be shared in the coming months.