Potential home buyers crowded onto tour buses Saturday and Sunday for their first glimpse of the much-anticipated homes of Northpark, Irvine's newest gated village. "We've been looking at all the stuff going on across the street," said Angela Casas, a Northwood homeowner who toured models after they opened Saturday morning. "With all the excitement it's created, I had to come over."

Hailed by Irvine Co. executives as perhaps their best community yet, Northpark will offer 1,600 gated homes, 700 apartments, several neighborhood and community parks, athletic fields, an elementary school and a shopping center in north Irvine. Homes are priced from the high $100,000s to more than $800,000.

Saturday marked the start of what the Irvine Co. is calling the preview period, which allows visitors to browse, choose a particular home and file prequalification paperwork with the builder by Aug. 4 for a chance to buy. An opportunity drawing will be held and announced Aug. 6, with 50 applicants selected for each of nine neighborhoods.

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