Earthmovers Begin Readying Site of New Town : Santa Margarita Will Rise From the Base of Saddleback Peaks

Times Staff Writer

Earthmovers have begun leveling lots for the first phase of a 5,000-acre business, industrial and residential community being born at the foot of the Saddleback peaks between Mission Viejo and Coto de Caza.

The new town, called Santa Margarita by its planners--several of whom were instrumental in beginning the hugely successful planned community of Mission Viejo--is to be the first stage of development of the 38,000-acre Rancho Mission Viejo, Orange County’s second-largest landholding.

Project to Take 15 Years

Development of Santa Margarita is expected to take 15 years. Anthony Moiso, president of the Santa Margarita Co., has said in previous interviews that development of the entire ranch is a project that will occupy the next 100 years or more.


In addition to the business park and as many as 19,000 residential units, the new planned community will include a 230-acre town center, neighborhood shopping centers, schools and 2,550 acres of open space, Santa Margarita officials said.

Sales are scheduled to begin next spring on a 350-acre residential section of the community surrounding a 15-acre lake. Companies planning to open headquarters and manufacturing and research facilities in south Orange County’s inland hill country will begin taking possession of improved parcels in a nearby 400-acre business park at about the same time, according to officials of the Santa Margarita Co., the corporate entity developing the project.

The company, owned largely by members of the Richard O’Neill family, which controls Rancho Mission Viejo, expects to name the builders participating in its first development phase at an official ground-breaking ceremony today.

Santa Margarita Co. plans to launch an aggressive advertising campaign next fall to try to create a public identity and demand for the remote south Orange County development, said Donald Moe, vice president of marketing.


Al Gobar, a Brea-based real estate consultant who has done marketing research on the Santa Margarita project, called the plans “fantastic.”

He said he expects the business park property to sell quickly, despite competition from the Irvine Co.'s Spectrum development, partly because he believes the land will be less expensive.

By January, Moe said, the Santa Margarita Co. intends to open an on-site information office. By then, he added, the firm also hopes to obtain county approval for the first 230 acres of the business park.

Already, Moe said, the Santa Margarita Co. has begun negotiating with Orange County employers looking for space to consolidate or expand their operations.

Moe said Santa Margarita’s business park will be more generalized than some “high-tech” parks under development in south Orange County. He said it is designed to accommodate any kind of light manufacturing or research company looking for a campuslike atmosphere and without a need for rail service.

Properties for sale in the Santa Margarita business park will range from small “starter” lots for fledgling businesses to sites for corporate headquarters along the new Portola Parkway, which connects the development with the San Diego Freeway.

Companies are expected to be attracted to the business park, Moe said, by the availability of housing that their employees can afford. The first phase of construction, he said, will contain 2,000 homes, including an apartment complex and 11 owner-occupied developments with both attached and detached units. The residential units are to be priced between $60,000 and $170,000, he said.