Garden Grove

Two councils met on future of Willowick

SHANGHAI’S SKYLINE shows the futuristic look of 21st century development. Perhaps we might see something of that on the Willowick site. Chinese developers are already involved in Harbor Boulevard hotel and mixed-use projects in Garden Grove.

By Jim Tortolano

What to do with 101.5-acres of mostly open land in the middle of central Orange County? The Garden Grove and Santa Ana city councils held an historic joint meeting Monday evening to discuss the fate of the site currently used as the Willowick Golf Course.

According to Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones, no formal action was taken and no future meetings were scheduled, but “all 14 council members expressed a strong interest in exploring development opportunities for Willowick.”

The land is owned by the City of Garden Grove, but is within the city limits of Santa Ana.

WILLOWICK Golf Course is owned by the City of Garden Grove but located within Santa Ana city limits.

“The timing is opportune right now because the economic climate is strong and since the streetcar project is tentatively scheduled to go into operation by 2020, which is also when the golf course ground lease expires,” stated Jones.

The OC Streetcar project, planned to run from the downtown-civic center area of Santa Ana west to Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove, would have a stop on 5th Street next to the Willowick site.

Issues discussed at the meeting include:

  • transparency in the process of possible development
  • the formalities of issuing a request for proposals to market the property and receive input from potential developers
  • engaging the public while Santa Ana is updating its general plan.

The two councils also discussed possibly bringing in a third party to “help the two cities define a shared vision” for the property.

In the past, suggestions for the parcel included a soccer stadium, an amusement park or a high-rise mixed-use development. Earlier this year, the two cities submitted a joint application to Amazon to be considered as a possible location for its planned second North American headquarters, with the golf course land a key part of the proposal.

The city staffs will study the next steps and come back to their councils with recommendations on how to proceed on a development that Jones termed “a project that could turn out to be an economic windfall for the residents of both cities.”


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