Plan to build new Pretend City Children’s Museum at Irvine’s Great Park faces stumbling block – Orange County Register

IRVINE — A plan to build a new $30 million children’s museum at the developing Orange County Great Park was put on hold — at least for now.

A motion to approve a memorandum of understanding that states that both the city and Pretend City Children’s Museum are interested in moving forward with the project failed to pass Tuesday, Aug. 8. The City Council voted 2-2, with Mayor Don Wagner and Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott opposing it. Councilman Jeff Lalloway was absent.

Pretend City, which now operates near Irvine Spectrum, wants to lease land at the city-owned 1,300-acre Great Park and build a 45,000- to 65,000-square-foot museum with a 1-acre outdoor exhibit space.

Wagner said he is worried about approving individual projects like this before figuring out what else to build at the Great Park, specifically the 233-acre Cultural Terrace. The city is considering an amphitheater, a lake, a library and museums at Cultural Terrace.

Others have been lobbying for a fire museum, a natural and cultural history museum, a botanical garden and a BMX park at the Great Park.

“Right now, it’s all piecemeal,” Wagner said.

Councilwomen Melissa Fox, who brought the proposal to the council last month, and Christina Shea said approving the memorandum would start lease negotiation without making any specific promises, while allowing Pretend City to retain funding for the project.

Contingent upon a land lease at the Great Park, Pretend City has secured $5.5 million from the Children and Families Commission of Orange County, which is responsible for distributing tobacco tax money for education, health and development programs.

However, the commission’s revenue has been declining, and the commission board could change their mind if projects don’t move forward, Pretend City officials said. The memorandum of understanding from the city will help retain that funding, Pretend City Executive Director Sandra Bolton said.

“We’re going to continue to work with the city and be a good partner,” Bolton said after Tuesday’s vote.

Wagner and Schott said they want to wait on making decisions about individual proposals until the council receives a staff report on Cultural Terrace, which is expected to be ready in the fall. Great Park Director Pete Carmichael said staff will try to present the report at the Sept. 26 meeting.

Pretend City has operated out of a 27,000-square-foot building tucked in a nondescript office district near Irvine Spectrum since 2009.