By Nancy Luna - Orange County Register
A Hello Kitty-themed restaurant serving coffee and cocktails. Handcrafted ice cream stuffed inside a doughnut. Slick Americana socks designed for punks and poets.
That’s the vision for a $200 million expansion of the Irvine Spectrum Center, one of Orange County’s busiest malls. On Thursday, the Irvine Co. revealed 14 of the 30 retailers and restaurants slated to open in 2018 and 2019 in the former Macy’s space. Tenants range from local retail and food hotshots to international brands such as Hello Kitty Cafe, H&M, Sephora and 85°C Bakery Café.
The expansion, one of the biggest capital investments made at the center since it opened 22 years ago, includes four buildings with 30 new tenants. A two-story H&M will be the Swedish fast-fashion retailer’s largest store West of the Mississippi. San Clemente-based Stance, a socks brand geared for everyone from skateboarders to boardroom executives, is opening its first Southern California store in the new building.
“They are really best in class retailers,” Irvine Co. retail executive Butch Knerr said in a phone interview Thursday morning.
The first wave of restaurants and retailers are slated to open by mid-August with the rest coming in 2019, including a Sephora beauty store.
Other shops and eateries announced Thursday include food-truck-turned restaurant Falasophy (Lebanese street food), BLKdot Coffee (Vietnamese cafe), Afters Ice Cream (home of the Milky Bun doughnut stuffed with ice cream), Robata Wasa (sushi from the owners of Izakaya Wasa); Concrete Rose (shoes), Gorjana (Laguna Beach jeweler), SoHa Living (coastal home decor), The Denim Lab (an in-store fitting lab helps customers choose jeans with a flawless fit), Los Angeles-based Perverse Sunglasses and SST&C (Milan-based menswear).
Knerr, who came to the Irvine Company in October, said the company’s retail team has spent months curating concepts that bring the kind of “energy and individuality” that the Irvine Spectrum is known for.
“You want people that are going to be new and exciting, that our customers can’t find everywhere,” said Knerr, president of Irvine Company Retail Properties.