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IRVINE, CA-The board of directors of Great Park, which will is being developed on 1,300 acres of the 4,600-acre former Marine Corps Air Station El Tor, has approved a design for the project that sets the stage for development. The comprehensive park design was presented by master designer Ken Smith and the Great Park Design Studio.

The approval follows nearly three years of planning, according to Larry Agran, chair of the Orange County Great Park Board Corp., which plans to incorporate a number of elements in the project, ranging from a sports park and a veterans’ memorial to nature trails and a lake.

The Great Park Corp. is overseeing the design, construction and maintenance of the 1,347-acre park, which became Irvine city land as part of a deal in which Lennar Corp. bought the former air base, deeded the 1,347-acre portion of it to the city and agreed to pay an additional $200 million for future development and maintenance of the park. The El Toro base was closed in the summer of 1999 and sold to Lennar for $649 million in 2005 in a government auction.

El Toro was originally built during World War II and served as an airbase for more than 50 years before being decommissioned. Its closing ignited a legal and political battle between forces that wanted to turn it into an international airport and those who favored other plans. The matter was settled by Orange County voters when they approved the park plan.

Lennar’s plan when it bought the former air base was to develop homes and commercial space on the portion of the land that it held title to, but those plan have been set back by the recession. Current plans for the park include an air museum where vintage aircraft will be displayed on remnants of the former runways, plus a veterans memorial. The sports park is planned for 165 acres that will feature a variety of sports facilities.

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