Launch Slideshow

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Regional Renaissance

Regional Renaissance

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    This rendition visualizes the Great Park in its completed form. Because biking's a major component of the park's transportation system, visitors get free use of a bike while in the park. Photos: Great Park Design Studio

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    California's Great Park ties into existing land reserves and connects critical ecological systems to water reserves in central and south Orange County.

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    Reserved solely for wildlife, one native habitat restoration is off limits to park visitors.

To minimize irrigation, three-quarters of plants will be native to or compatible with the region's generally arid conditions. The park's 20-acre lake will serve as a reservoir, while water from the Irvine Ranch Water District's groundwater reclamation plant will supplement stream flow. Infiltration zones scattered throughout the park will capture and send runoff to the belowground aquifer to support increased demand for drinking water by future residents and businesses.

All areas with buildings, roads, and other facilities will integrate best-management practices such as porous pavement, structural infiltration devices, and litter and debris entrapment vaults. Natural treatment systems, such as wetlands that may be supplemented with bio-swales, will filter runoff. Structured soil placement will promote aeration/infiltration while confining roots.

Green streets and sustainable travelways. In addition to traffic-calming measures, park designers prepared measures to capture and treat runoff in bio-swales, infiltration/exfiltration trenches, and bottomless catch basins.

Low-reflective and colored paving material will work with trees grouped along roads to provide shade and minimize the heat-island effect in commercial and residential areas.

Although 40 acres of switch grass or other biomass crops will be grown to feed an anaerobic gas digester, the sun will provide most of the development's onsite power.

More than 1 acre of photovoltaics will cover roof areas to generate 400 kW at peak output, and 15 solar collectors containing 30+-foot-diameter mirror dishes will generate more than 500 kW at peak output. Photovoltaic cells attached to lamp posts will charge batteries that power lights at night.

A small hydrogen fuel cell demonstration will also be installed, most likely in the air control tower that's still used by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Transportation and trails. The park's location — next to the Irvine Transportation Center that is served by both Amtrak and the regional Metrolink rail services that go south to San Diego and north to Los Angeles and the rest of California — reduces the need for visitors to drive there.

Once they arrive, an internal transportation system of buses and shuttles using old runways and taxiways will allow visitors to park their vehicles once and get anywhere in the park.

The park knits together existing riding, hiking, and multiuse trails, completing an existing bicycle network within the county that will link residential neighborhoods and business districts to the park.

— Rombouts (crombouts@ca.rr.com) is a freelance writer who covers real estate and related industries in the Western United States.