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Doug Holte and Steve Case

If you need convincing that Orange County has become a red-hot hub for many of the nation’s most innovative and successful companies, take a drive through Irvine Spectrum. 

And look up.

You’ll see the signs of big-time tech names proudly displayed outside the region’s most prestigious offices: Amazon. Cylance. Mazda. CoreLogic. Blizzard. 

Hundreds of other innovators in technology, biosciences, fintech and virtually every other industry have established a foothold in these modern and vibrant workplaces alongside them. A key indication of Irvine’s popularity is that its office space is about 95% leased, one of the highest rates in the U.S. By contrast, New York and San Francisco’s occupancy rates are around 90%, according to the Statista website.

Collectively, the presence of these giants leaves no doubt that Orange County – Irvine and Newport Beach in particular – has come of age as a mecca for companies looking to capitalize on our exceptional talent, extraordinary climate and lifestyle.

And a new group of CEOs is forming to accelerate the visibility of Orange County’s innovator ecosystem. 

This group recognizes that a key factor for innovation-driven firms to grow in Orange County is our deep talent pool.

At University of California- Irvine alone, more than 17,500 students – half of the entire student body – are working toward degrees in STEM majors and careers in science (medicine), technology, engineering and mathematics. 

These energetic and brilliant young people will soon graduate from one of the nation’s top public research universities. Many will choose to spend their careers in Orange County. 

That’s a compelling pitch for companies to establish and expand here – and those numbers don’t include the tens of thousands of additional STEM students at Chapman University and California State University-Fullerton. 

Of course, there’s more to the equation companies must solve when choosing where to operate. 

Top companies are becoming increasingly focused on how to retain the talent they work so hard to recruit. To do this, many are looking for locations that offer a great quality of life for young families. That includes an affordable place to live.

The median sale price of a home in San Francisco was $1.15 million in January, more than a third higher than the $700,000 in Orange County, according to CoreLogic. Irvine homes range from $300,000 for a one-bedroom condo to $1 million and up for a new home. 

From the road and park system to a diversity of housing options to California’s best K-12 public schools, Irvine offers unrivaled opportunities for professionals to have a balanced life without compromising their career.

Irvine’s appeal and reputation are among the reasons offices in the city are nearly full, and why new workplace communities opened with significant pre-leasing activity from leading companies in a variety of industries.

It’s why internationally-renowned companies like Blizzard and Edwards Lifesciences thrive here and why so many start-ups are experiencing explosive growth. 

Another edge over the competition is something we call “workplace community.”

Which brings us to Spectrum Terrace, the soon-to-open state-of-the-art office campus located at the confluence of the 405, 5 and 133 freeways. Totaling 73 acres, it’s equivalent to the size of Fashion Island in Newport Beach. 

One million square feet of premium workspace will be housed in nine glass-sheathed jewel-boxes perched on three terraced office “neighborhoods.” This ultra-modern campus will offer international-quality architecture, inspired by insights from world-class companies who have migrated to OC from Silicon Valley or east coast locations and then perfected for the Southern California lifestyle. Who says an office meeting in March can’t be outdoors on the patio? 

While Spectrum Terrace will be built in three phases – the first opens this summer – the campus’ on-site workday amenities are being frontloaded to ensure the highest level of convenience for employees from the get-go. Located in four separate freestanding facilities, the amenities include catering-ready gathering spaces, an indoor/outdoor high tech conference center, KINETIC, private fitness and wellness experience.

The campus is next to thousands of acres of easily accessible, national-landmark coastal wilderness that have been permanently preserved as part of Irvine’s master plan. More than 4,300 trees are being planted, each one irrigated with reclaimed water. 

A 1.5-mile jogging walking trail will make it easy for employees to enjoy some fresh air and exercise. 

What’s more – the campus is connected to the Quail Hill trails, which permits hikers and mountain bikers a 12-mile trek through Crystal Cove State Park to arrive at its gorgeous beach.

Adding to the allure is nearby first-class housing and hundreds of desirable shops and restaurants in Irvine Co.’s collection of Spectrum area retail centers. 

Spectrum Terrace will be unlike any other office campus in Southern California. And it will undoubtedly draw even more top companies and world-class talent to Irvine.

That’s good news for Orange County, whose continued appeal and future economic strength depend upon – and already owe so much to – a strong and growing business core.

Doug Holte and Steve Case are president and executive vice president of Irvine Company Office Properties, respectively.

Originally published on 3/19/2019, Orange County Business Journal

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