O.C.'s tallest office building continues Irvine Spectrum's rise

Illuminated by the sunlight streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows on the top floor of Irvine's newest — and tallest — office tower, Doug Holte stopped Thursday to reflect on an Irvine Co. vision that's 30 years in the making.

Standing 323 feet tall, 200 Spectrum Center — named for its address at 200 Spectrum Center Drive — eclipses the recently completed 315-foot office building at 520 Newport Center Drive in Newport Beach as Orange County's tallest.

"We wanted to create a vibrant workplace community that helps business flourish," said Holte, president of the Irvine Co.'s office properties.

But the building's height isn't its only claim to fame.

In the weeks and months before its grand opening Thursday, the building became one of Irvine's most photographed structures, with 75 pictures of the tower — its sleek steel and jewel-box exterior reflecting the bustling Irvine Spectrum area below — appearing on Instagram.

The building also is one of the last pieces of architecture planned for the Spectrum, which Holte calls Irvine's business hub.

The Irvine Co. declined to disclose the cost of the new tower, designed by architect Pei Cobb Freed, who also designed the US Bank tower in Los Angeles and the Goldman Sachs skyscraper in New York City. The 426,000-square-foot building features 360-degree views, an outdoor patio area and a fitness center.

The tower is 43% leased, with Mazda North American Operations, shared-workspace group WeWork and gaming communications company Curse Inc. among the main tenants. Mazda's name will adorn the top of the building.

The first tenants will begin moving in around April.

"The diversity of the companies leasing and showing interest in 200 Spectrum Center confirms that Irvine Spectrum has evolved into Southern California's hub of innovation," Holte said.

Next on the horizon for the area is 400 Spectrum Center, a replica of 200 Spectrum Center in height and design. Construction crews have broken ground on the next tower, which is expected to be completed in fall 2017.

Meanwhile, adjacent to the 200 tower, Marriott is expanding its hotel, and on the other side, Broadcom is building a new campus.

"Our decision to start 400 Spectrum Center is a sign of our long-term faith in Irvine as a premier coastal California location for forward-thinking businesses," Holte said. "Both 200 and 400 Spectrum Center Drive will elevate business for our customers and add to Irvine's spectacular skyline."

The Irvine Spectrum was first imagined in the late 1980s as a sprawling center for retail, restaurants and business parks.

At the turn of the 21st century, the outlook for development there was significantly altered. A controversial proposal to convert the nearby former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station into an airport was still up for consideration, meaning residential development wasn't part of the Spectrum plan.

The airport idea's demise was a game changer for the Irvine Co. The developer's vision of an area where people could work, live, eat and seek entertainment grew from there, as it eventually built 5,000 apartments in the Spectrum area, Holte said.

"This area represents a unique opportunity to capitalize on business synergy," Holte said.

The Irvine Co. drew inspiration for the Spectrum from business giants such as Google and Facebook, which erected lavish campuses in fairly empty areas in an attempt to attract top talent.

Building office towers next to the Irvine Spectrum Center mall, which draws millions of visitors each year, was a natural way to merge corporate business with entertainment and dining opportunities, said Steve Case, executive vice president of Irvine Co. office properties.

"It's easy to compete for talent here," Case said.

Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott said she's pleased to see the Spectrum continue to blossom with the addition of the shining glass tower. She joked that future employees' productivity might suffer in the first few months while they adjust to the sweeping views.

"This area really creates a different quality of life for Irvine," she said. "This is going to be a great place to be."

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