Anaheim's Platinum Triangle neighborhood is finally showing signs of life following a downturn that mothballed the city's vision of a new downtown for Orange County.
In the latest example of growing developer interest in the area, a Texas developer plans to break ground Thursday on a 400-unit apartment complex along Katella Avenue near Angel Stadium. The $119-million luxury project will rise on a 7.6-acre vacant plot that the developer, JPI, purchased last month.
"It feels like a great time to be breaking ground in the Platinum Triangle," said Gus Villalba, the western region executive vice president for JPI, based in Irving, Texas. "It's just now starting to pick up momentum."
In all, city plans allow for nearly 20,000 residential units and about 19 million square feet of commercial and office space in the Platinum Triangle, an 820-acre swath surrounding Angel Stadium, the Honda Center and the City National Grove of Anaheim. A street car has also been proposed that would connect the neighborhood with Disneyland and Anaheim GardenWalk.
The recession sidelined plans for a new downtown, but several projects are now underway. As of mid-December, there were 1,038 residential units under construction in the area, according to the city. And last month, Anaheim's new, glistening $188-million transportation center and train station, known as ARTIC, opened.
JPI's upscale complex, named Jefferson Platinum Triangle, will include club rooms, saltwater pools, gyms, and a rooftop deck where movies can be screened. Average rents for the studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom units are expected to range from $1,900 to $2,850, JPI's Villalba said.
Residents are expected to be able to move in starting in October 2016. Many will probably be young professionals who want to live near work, major transportation corridors and entertainment venues, Villalba said.
In 2004, Anaheim rezoned the largely industrial Platinum Triangle to attract private development and create a new downtown for Orange County. But the recession dealt a serious blow.
Large plots of land have sat empty for years. Projects switched from condominiums to apartments. And so far only 1,920 residential units and a fraction of the commercial space have been finished, according to the city. On Monday, for-lease signs dotted windows of retail space at one early project, Stadium Lofts.
Home builder Lennar Corp. is seeking to downsize its 2,700-home A-Town project, which is considered the eventual centerpiece of the neighborhood. The city is reviewing that request.
"The wild card is what is the time frame for the build-out of A-Town?" said Ray Eldridge, a commercial real estate broker with CBRE.
Another unknown is the Angels, which can opt out of their stadium lease from 2016 to 2019. The team has been in discussions with the city of Anaheim about the plan in which the team would pay to renovate Angel Stadium and develop the surrounding parking lot, although negotiations have stalled over how the city might share in development profits. The team also has talked with the city of Tustin about the possibility of building a new ballpark on the site formerly occupied by a military base.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said he is "confident that the Angels and the city will be long-term partners, however demand for development in the Platinum Triangle is not contingent on that."
Tait said that after a pause during the recession, development is picking up. And low vacancy rates and rising rents in Orange County will support more projects in the area, Eldridge said.
Tait predicted that in a decade the vision of a downtown for Orange County will be largely built out.
"The way Orange County has developed ... there is a need for that sense of place, where you say, 'Yes that's the center,'" Tait said. "And that is what this will be."
Staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.