Irvine Company headquarters in Newport Center
|Headquarters||Newport Beach, California, United States of America|
Number of locations
|Orange County, San Diego County, Silicon Valley, Westside|
|James Irvine (Founder)
Donald Bren (Chairman)
The Irvine Company is an American private company focused on real estate development. It is headquartered in Newport Center, California, with a large portion of its operations centered in and around Irvine, California, a planned city of 250,000 people mainly designed by the Irvine Company. The company was founded by the Irvine family and is currently wholly owned by Donald Bren. Since the company is private, its financials are not released to the public. However, Donald Bren is the richest real estate developer in the United States, valued at $15.4 billion.
The Irvine Company grew from the premise of a 185-square-mile (480 km2) ranch founded by James Irvine I, Benjamin and Thomas Flint, and Llewellyn Bixby in 1864 from three adjoining Mexican land grants. Irvine and his partners began by purchasing the Rancho San Joaquin, which constitutes the coastal half of the present-day ranch, from Jose Antonio Sepulveda. A drought that killed his livestock forced Sepulveda to sell his ranch in 1864. The partners purchased Rancho Lomas de Santiago—largely unfarmable due to its steep, hilly terrain—in 1866 from William Wolfskill, who had used it largely as a sheep ranch. Flint, Bixby and Irvine were among the claimants of a title lawsuit that divided Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana in 1868. Unlike other early Newport Beach landowners, Irvine and his partners had no interest in subdividing and selling, intent, instead, upon identifying the most lucrative agricultural uses for their enormous tract of land, spanning over 100,000 acres. Irish-born Irvine met Collis Huntington, soon to become one of the Central Pacific Railroad (CPR) magnates on the trip across the Atlantic. Rather than cementing a friendship, a disagreement that lasted throughout their lives resulted. When Huntington's Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) needed Irvine's land for its route between Orange County and San Diego, Irvine refused. When SP crews began laying tracks on Irvine land without permission, ranch hands with shotguns confronted the crews. Eventually, Irvine gave the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway permission to build on his ranch. (The ATSF's successor, the BNSF Railway, still operates freight trains on the line, along with Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink's Orange County Line commuter train)
When Irvine died in 1886, trustees, left in control of the ranch until James II turned 25, tried to sell it at auction. When this auction was declared illegal, his son took over the reins of the ranch and accelerated efforts to increase its agricultural production  In 1894, Irvine's son, James Irvine II, incorporated the land holdings as the Irvine Company. Between the late 1800s to the 1970s, the Irvine Company engaged in cattle operations on the property, with "Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp" serving as its center. James Irvine remarked in 1867 that he and his men "rode about [the Irvine Ranch] a good deal, sometimes coming home in the evening after a thirty- or forty-mile ride pretty thoroughly tired out, but we had to do it in order to see much of the ranch and the flock." At the time, his Irvine Company had been purchasing further adjoining parcels of land, "[s]o there [was] considerable riding to be done, if one [was] to see much of [the ranch]."
In 1953, the National Scout Jamboree was held on Irvine Ranch land in the area of what is now Fashion Island Shopping Center. Jamboree Road, running from Newport Beach to Orange, was built to allow people to travel to the jamboree from nearby train stations. In 1959, the Irvine Company donated 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) and sold 500 acres (2.0 km2) near Newport Beach to the University of California for construction of a new UC campus (map). The university and company, together with architect William Pereira, designed the Irvine Ranch Master Plan for developing the surrounding area. The city of Irvine, whose citizens officially incorporated it in 1971, grew around the campus.
By the late 1970s, the Irvine Company had ceased its cattle business. In 1977, real estate developer Donald Bren began buying Irvine Company shares from the Irvine family. With the Irvine Company's cattle operations finished, the Irvine Company sold the Bommer Canyon area to the City of Irvine between 1981 and 1982. The City of Irvine purchased the land with grants obtained from the 1974 California Bond Act. By 1983, Bren was the majority owner of the Irvine Company. By 1996, he had purchased all outstanding shares to be the sole owner of the Irvine Company.
The Irvine Company develops suburban master-planned communities throughout central and southern Orange County, in addition to residential buildings in Santa Monica, Silicon Valley, and San Diego. The company also owns and manages office buildings in Milpitas, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Downtown San Diego, Mission Valley, San Diego, La Jolla Village/University City, Sorrento Mesa, Del Mar Heights, Newport Center, UCI locations, West Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Chicago. Donald Bren is its Chairman and sole shareholder.
The 93,000-acre (380 km2) Irvine Ranch remains the core holding of The Irvine Company. Of the total ranch area, 44,000 acres (180 km2) is retained for development whilst the remainder are preserved as wilderness and recreational preserves collectively known as the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. In August 2014, the Irvine Company announced plans to donate and preserve 2,500 additional acres of land previously approved for housing. The Ranch encompasses almost one fifth of Orange County, from the Pacific Ocean and Newport Harbor, Laguna Beach, and Santa Ana Canyon, to the boundary of the Cleveland National Forest.
A partial list of cities within the boundaries of the Irvine Ranch includes:
The Irvine Company owns several large retail centers, including The Market Place and Irvine Spectrum Center in Irvine, and Fashion Island in Newport Beach, which is surrounded by the Newport Center commercial area. The Irvine Company also holds several office properties, particularly in Irvine and Newport Center, the Fox Plaza in Century City, Los Angeles, the MetLife Building in New York City, and nearly 500 total properties throughout Coastal California.
- The Irvine Ranche Robert Glass Cleland. Huntington Library Press, 1962.
- Baker, Gayle, Newport Beach, HarborTown Histories, Santa Barbara, CA, 2004, p. 14, 36, ISBN 9780971098435 (print) 9780987903839 (on-line)
- Baker, p. 14-15
- "Bommer Canyon". Open Space & Nature Programs. City of Irvine. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
- Irvine Ranch: different by design, images 1960-2000. The Irvine Company. 2000. pp. 24, 26–30. ISBN 0-9709085-0-4.
- "Irvine Apartment Communities - Southern California Luxury Real Estate". Irvine Company. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- "Irvine Company Office Properties - Premier Facilities". Retrieved June 13, 2011.
- Cowan, Jill. "Final pieces of Irvine Ranch complete 'open-space puzzle' in O.C.". LA Times. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
- The Irvine Company website
- Visit the wildlands and parks on The Irvine Ranch, where The Irvine Ranch Conservancy provides public access and environmental restoration.
- Map of the Irvine Ranch and information on its master plan