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Happy birthday: 20 years of shopping, movies at the Irvine Spectrum

Published: 07/10/2015
Irvine Spectrum Center, the shopping center known by its glowing, multicolored monolith and Giant Wheel is celebrating its 20th birthday.

"When Irvine Spectrum Center opened in 1995, the vision was for it was to be a unique, open-air destination where people could dine and be entertained," Easther Liu, Chief Marketing Officer for Irvine Company Retail Properties, said in a statement. "That vision has evolved to include shopping, but our desire to be unique and differentiated remains the same."

The Spectrum opened in 1995 with 250,000 square feet of space. Today the center boasts more than 1.2 million square feet, 130 stores and more than 17 million annual visitors.

At its start, the Spectrum was one of the first shopping centers in the country to be anchored by retail and entertainment venues, including the Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21 Cinemas, Liu said. Now, big box retailers at the center include Nordstrom, Target, Macy's and H&M.

The center's first big expansion came in 1998 when Phase II opened with an additional 250,000 square feet of space. It added Spanish architecture, courtyards and fountains. The Improv Comedy Club and the Nascar Speedway also opened.

In 2001, the carousel opened followed by a 332,000-square-foot expansion in 2002 that brought in the Giant Wheel. In 2003, the seasonal ice rink opened for the first time. Nearby apartment units including the Village at Irvine Spectrum and The Park Apartment Homes opened in the 2000s.

The Irvine Spectrum is still growing; in 2015 it added a Tilly's flagship store, CREAM, Yogurtland and Pressed Juicery. A Habana restaurant will be opening soon.

As part of the celebration, the area surrounding the Giant Wheel will have games for guests from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday. There will be a DJ and free rides on the wheel.

The center intends to add more retailers to the Spectrum in 2016, including Kona Grill, a sushi-meets-grill restaurant.

Contact the writer: hmadans@ocregister.com or Twitter: @HannahMadans

 

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