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Pro Sports Developers Look to Revive Prospects for Disneyland's Hometown

Two Mixed-Use Projects Near Anaheim, California, Could Ease Damage From Pandemic Shutdowns

Baseball's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are looking to develop space near the team's stadium with new hotels, apartments, offices and stores. (City of Anaheim)

The Los Angeles Angels baseball team and Anaheim Ducks hockey franchise have each submitted long-awaited formal plans for major professional sports projects adjacent to their two separate home stadiums in Anaheim, California, which could create the city's biggest wave of new development since the 1955 opening of Disneyland Resort.

The proposals call for a combined total of 7,900 residential units, more than 3.5 million square feet of office space, four hotels and more than 1.5 million square feet of new retail, dining and entertainment spaces.

If they're completed as planned over the next five years, they could provide a much-needed development jolt for the city of Anaheim, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus-forced shutdown of Disneyland, the world's second most-visited theme park and by far the region's biggest economic dynamo leading up to the pandemic.

"Either of these projects would be a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and we have two coming in at the same time," Anaheim city spokesman Mike Lyster told CoStar News, noting both mixed-use projects could begin construction as early as 2023.

The projects in acreage total just half of the 500 acres of themed attractions, hotels and other commercial elements that have sprung up in phases at Disneyland over the past 65 years. But the proximity and density of both a 150-acre complex next to Angel Stadium and a 115-acre development next to the Ducks' Honda Center, with related infrastructure connecting them, would represent the biggest spurt of new commercial growth in the city since Disneyland's original construction.

The developments are meant to help the teams as they seek to create year-round hubs for revenue generation and social activity. The Anaheim projects come after several around the nation that have been completed or are in planning, seeking to incorporate sports venues into larger mixed-use hubs that generate economic activity well beyond sports seasons. Cities deploying the playbook have included San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland and Inglewood in California, plus others such as Atlanta, Boston and Chicago.

Each of the Anaheim projects are expected by the city to bring in between $10 million and $20 million annually in crucial new hotel, sales and property taxes.

City officials recently said Anaheim, in northern Orange County, faces a projected budget deficit of $75 million for its upcoming fiscal year, largely because of tax revenue lost from the closure of Disneyland in mid-March. Disneyland on Wednesday said it would keep the theme park closed indefinitely, reversing a decision to begin a phased reopening on July 17 that would have ended the longest shutdown since the park's 1955 opening.

"These projects would help with that recovery once they're in place, and they should have an impact for years to come," Lyster said.

Ambitious Scale

It's been decades since Anaheim has faced development projects of this scope.

Lyster said they "would represent the largest wave of development since the key projects of the 1950s and 1960s: Disneyland in 1955, what was then Anaheim Stadium in 1966 and the 1967 opening of the Anaheim Convention Center."

The most recent year for big additions in the city was 2001, which saw the openings of the Disney California Adventure theme park, a hotel and the Downtown Disney retail district, all within or adjacent to the Disneyland Resort site. "All of those were significant, but these two projects together would certainly be the largest since," Lyster said of the sports venue developments.

Approval of the plans is also expected to help the city keep both teams from moving to other cities, which have been attempting to lure the sports franchises with promises of new stadiums and other incentives.

Over the next three months, city planners and eventually the City Council expect to review plans and renderings submitted this week by the MLB's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, calling for stadium-adjacent components including 5,100 residential units, two hotels, 2.7 million square feet of offices and 1.1 million square feet of shops, restaurants and entertainment elements.

To clear the way for the project, City Council needs to formally sign off on a previously negotiated sale of the city-owned Angel Stadium and its surrounding 153 acres to a new company formed by Angels owner Arte Moreno. Officials said the price could be about $325 million but is yet to be finalized, based on the amount of affordable housing and other community-oriented elements that are ultimately approved.

Talks over new commercial uses around the 54-year-old stadium, the fourth-oldest in Major League Baseball, have been crucial to efforts to keep the Angels in Anaheim at least through 2050, though the Angels are putting off decisions for now on whether to replace or significantly overhaul the stadium where its current lease was previously set to expire at the end of this year.

The city and local sports venue operators have also been looking to revive economic prospects for an area of the city known as the Platinum Triangle, a large urban neighborhood that so far has not seen commercial development activity on par with addresses that are closer to Disneyland.

"The stadium development plan will realize the vision of the Platinum Triangle decades before the current lease allows," Moreno said in a statement. "This plan is an important step in creating a driving economic force, while investing in Anaheim's future."

Project representatives for Henry and Susan Samueli, whose H & S Ventures owns the Ducks and manages Honda Center, this week submitted plans for multiple elements that would fill current arena-adjacent parking lot sites, including two hotels and more than 480,000 square feet of dining, retail and entertainment components. Those commercial elements include a food hall and beer garden, among more than 30 dining venues, along with a 6,000-seat theater.

A new development called OC Vibe would replace parking lots with new entertainment and social spaces next to Honda Center in Anaheim. (City of Anaheim.

Plans indicate the development, called OC Vibe, would be built in phases, with the first expected to open in 2024. Plans also call for 2,800 residential units, with 15% to be classified as affordable under federal income guidelines, and 825,000 square feet of offices. Also planned are 30 acres of parks and open space, parking structures and new pedestrian bridges and walkways along Katella Avenue.

"OC Vibe will provide a live, work, and play community of a scale not seen in Orange County, with live entertainment events and activities year-round," said Tim Ryan, CEO of the newly created development entity known as OC Vibe Sports & Entertainment LLC, in a statement.

The city is planning to sell 14 acres consisting mostly of parking lots to the developers for about $10.1 million, but the city intends to retain ownership of Honda Center. Arena operators have estimated that the project, designed to keep the Ducks in Anaheim for at least another 30 years, would create $3 billion in development at full build-out and create 3,300 permanent jobs.

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Dan Young, master planner for the Honda Center project, described it as "L.A. Live on steroids," referencing a popular complex in downtown Los Angeles housing the Staples Center arena, home to the NBA's Lakers and Clippers, along with a separate music and theater venue, hotels, stores and restaurants.

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