City of Hope will invest $1 billion in a new hospital and research center on the site of a former air base in Irvine that will enhance the way cancer care is delivered in the region.
The large-scale facility will primarily serve Orange County, where nearly 20% of cancer patients leave the area for advanced care, City of Hope said. Many of them travel as long as two hours to City of Hope’s headquarters in Duarte, a city east of Pasadena.
City of Hope said last year that it would build a $200-million cancer treatment facility in Great Park Neighborhoods, but the project announced Tuesday reflects an expansion to include a hospital and a research facility conducting clinical trials of new drugs and devices.
The complex on land that was once part of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro will be “way more substantial than we had originally planned,” City of Hope President Robert Stone said. “The demand from people living in Orange County led us to expand the vision.”
The cancer incidence rate in Orange County is projected to increase by 18% over the next decade, he said. Cancer risk increases with age, and the county’s population is aging faster than the U.S. average.
Nearly half of the $1-billion investment in Irvine will be spent acquiring and building the new facilities, Stone said. City of Hope will buy 11 acres at FivePoint Gateway, the commercial district of Great Park Neighborhoods.
The land is owned by FivePoint Holdings, an Irvine real estate company that is redeveloping the former air base decommissioned in 1999.
Included on the property being acquired by City of Hope is a 190,000-square-foot building erected by technology company Broadcom Inc.
The semiconductor maker had planned to build a 2-million-square-foot global headquarters on the site but halted construction after the company was acquired by Singapore-based semiconductor firm Avago in 2016.
FivePoint repurchased the land and Broadcom’s four completed buildings in 2017. Broadcom now leases two of those buildings; a third is occupied by FivePoint and its largest shareholder, home builder Lennar Corp.
City of Hope will improve the unused four-story building to its specifications and expects to open it in 2021 as a center for cancer research and treatment. Its new hospital will be completed by 2025, Stone said, though the size of the hospital has yet to be determined.
The property sale is expected to close by the end of the year pending approval of City of Hope’s development plan by Irvine officials.
City of Hope is one of 50 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. The expansion will make City of Hope only the second multi-site comprehensive cancer center along with the Mayo Clinic, which has campuses in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. The UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in Orange is currently the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer facility in the county.
“Irvine will become a second campus for us,” Stone said, and a hub in its network of about 30 care centers serving Southern California. Patients visiting the remote centers can meet with their doctors and receive treatments such as chemotherapy.
Funding for City of Hope’s Irvine project will come from philanthropic contributions and revenue raised through research discoveries it licenses, Stone said. “Donors in Orange County want to provide access close to home.”
Last year, about 3,200 patients traveled from Orange County to Duarte for cancer treatment, he said.
The former air base spent years as a political football after the federal government announced in 1993 that it would close El Toro. Business and community interests argued over how the land should be used.
In 2002, a ballot measure defeated a planned airport and mandated the development of a park on the site. Lennar Corp. bought the land from the Department of Defense in 2005, transferring nearly one-third of the original 4,700-acre parcel to public ownership and pledging $200 million to the park’s development.
After initial fanfare surrounding the project, the Great Park site languished for another decade. Allegations of cronyism and negligence surfaced as large sums of money disappeared with little tangible progress, including a $100,000-a-month no-bid contract for public relations.
Lennar spun off FivePoint Holdings in 2009 as a separate company that now controls Great Park Neighborhoods. It is developing the public land known as Orange County Great Park for the city.
In September, FivePoint completed a 194-acre sports complex there that includes soccer fields, tennis courts, baseball diamonds and other sports fields.
Great Park Neighborhoods has schools and about 3,300 homes, about a third of the planned residential development, FivePoint Chief Executive Emile Haddad said. It will also have hotels, stores and restaurants.
The FivePoint Gateway commercial district will eventually have about 4.5 million square feet of offices and research facilities along with bars and dining options.
FivePoint is also developing the former Newhall Ranch in north Los Angeles County and the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Candlestick Point in San Francisco.