$200-million makeover brings new shops, open spaces to Irvine Spectrum

Nathaniel Allenby performs for shoppers at the Irvine Spectrum Center on Aug. 18. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Irvine Spectrum Center recently opened more than 15 new stores as part of a $200-million reinvestment plan.

Additions include Hello Kitty Café, H&M, Afters Ice Cream, Robata Wasa, The Denim Lab, Ra Yoga, STANCE, Gorjana, 85°C Bakery Café, BLKdot Coffee, Concrete Rose, Falasophy, SoHa Living and UnAffected.

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Thirty stores and restaurants will eventually fill four new buildings with openings, including Brigade LA, Drybar, Sephora and SST&C, planned through 2019.

Heather Nykolaychuk, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Irvine Co. Retail Properties, said the expansion is the most substantial since the center’s 1995 opening.

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The last added more than 60 shops and restaurants in 2002. A Nordstrom followed in 2005, a Target in 2006.

To make way for the new structures, a 140,000-square-foot Macy’s, which closed in 2016, was torn down.

While selecting businesses to fill the storefronts, the Irvine Co. mixed local boutiques with national retailers.

Nykolaychuk said the company wanted locally grown brands with global appeal, such as San Clemente-based STANCE, which sells designer socks, and Laguna Beach-based Gorjana, a jewelry store.

Hello Kitty Café, which serves desserts, tea and coffee, is the first of its kind for the pop culture brand.

In addition to the new storefronts, the reinvestment includes new paseos with fountains, olive trees and heritage pines, as well as open-air lounging areas. Lucky Climber, a jungle-gym structure, was installed near the pop-jet fountain.

Spectrum tripled its green space with the reinvestment, Nykolaychuk said.

The reinvestment comes amid a tumultuous period for large shopping centers done in largely by the rise of online shopping. Hundreds of decaying and abandoned malls are scattered throughout the country.

The Spectrum remains relevant because the Irvine Co. focused on entertainment — there is an Edwards movie theater and Improv comedy club — as well as shopping to round out the appeal, Nykolaychuk said.

Separate from the reinvestment, the movie theater on Aug. 17 added a new type of immersive theater experience that allows viewers to see a film on a three-paneled, 270-degree screen. Called ScreenX, it is one of only 148 worldwide.

“You hear a lot about us going through this retail apocalypse,” Nykolaychuk said, “but we have made this not just a place to shop, but a place to eat and be entertained.”

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