Restaurants and Shops Coming to UTC After Construction

University Town Center opened a new restaurant over the summer, the first of six new businesses scheduled to open in UTC over the next year, including two additional restaurants, a GNC (General Nutrition Center), a clothing boutique, and a Target. The three restaurants (Luna Grill, ADYA and Spoleto: My Italian Kitchen) are scheduled to open this fall quarter, while the the other business are scheduled to open in the first half of next year.

Indian restaurant ADYA opened in June adjacent to Peet’s Coffee, and is the second ADYA location to open up in Orange County. ADYA focuses on modern, sustainable Indian food, and its menu will feature tandoori, curries, and Indian street foods.

Spoleto: My Italian Kitchen is set to open a 4,260 square foot location next to UTC’s Mendocino Farms. The company is an international chain of restaurants with hundreds of locations across Brazil, Mexico, and Costa Rica. The chain’s three current locations in the U.S. are all in Florida, making the UTC restaurant the company’s first foray into the California market. According to its website, “Spoleto combines the speed of fresh-casual service with the sophistication of an Italian restaurant and gourmet-quality food.” Spoleto offers a local, seasonal menu and guest-chosen food combinations.

Following the controversial closure of student favorite Kochee Kebab, its replacement, Luna Grill, is scheduled to open by the end of the year. The chain, which has 21 restaurants throughout Southern California and Texas, serves Mediterranean dishes like grilled kebabs, wraps, salads, falafel and hummus.

Nectar Clothing, a small chain of women’s boutiques based in Redlands, is expected to open another store in UTC. According to the Irvine Company’s website, “A woman’s clothing boutique, Nectar, represents a fashion forward Cali girl who loves adventure, food, camping, county fairs, the beautiful So Cal Beaches, camping, falling in love, and being with friends.”

The Target will replace 24 Hour Fitness’s 20,000 square foot space, and is intended to be the area’s first “flexible-format” location. The “flexible-format” style is a concept introduced by Target in 2015 when they  rebranded their CityTarget and TargetExpress locations. These locations are smaller than typical stores, yet offer an assortment of items tailored to the local community. The proposed flexible-format Target at UTC will stock college and dorm “essentials,” local sports team merchandise, grab-and-go food items like sandwiches or salads, health and beauty products, and technology products and accessories.

UTC’s Central Plaza outside University Tower is currently being reconstructed. The entire area was bulldozed over the summer, leaving only the old palm trees standing. The area will feature new planters and grassy areas, as well as an overarching structure which will provide shade over the much of the new plaza.

The replacement of 24 Hour Fitness with Target was met with a handful complaints from concerned community residents. An online petition was created online at thepetitionsite.com several months ago after the construction was announced, entitled “Fitness not Fatness in University Town Center Irvine.” The petition’s main complaint was that the replacement of 24 Hour Fitness with Target runs counter to the University’s and the Irvine Community’s commitments to health.

“The University of California and its students have been researching in many areas such as the Global Food Initiative, diabetes, and sustainability, to name a few,” said the petition, by user Luette Forrest. “It is well established that people should limit their intake of processed food and have exercise as a daily part of a healthy life. Replacing a fitness facility with another processed food emporium runs counter to our values as a world leader in education and research. We like to envision our neighborhood as a living lab and hope that our retail neighbors respect and ideally share these values.” The petition closed with only 11 signatures.

The closure of Kochee Kabob last December to make way for Luna Grill, however, brought out complaints from hundreds of students. A petition started on change.org by student Huda Herwees garnered 531 signatures within a week from students and other locals.

“An impressive amount of support comes from the Muslim students, faculty, and staff of UC Irvine, who turn to Kochee Kabob as one of the few providers of halal food options within reasonable distance from campus,” said Herwees.

In a statement made to the New University last year, former ASUCI President Parshan Khosravi said, “The decision of UTC to remove Kochee Kabob is yet another example of UTC’s growing push for local businesses to be replaced with expensive, corporate businesses that have more money and power, at the cost of removing any elements of our campus-favorite local food. That is what makes this decision so concerning to me.”

In December, Chief Marketing Executive for Irvine Company Retail Properties Easther Liu acknowledged the closure of Kochee Kabob and foreshadowed future plans for UTC expansion on the company’s website.

“We want to thank Kochee Kabob for its many years at University Center,” Liu said. “We’re committed to offering an ever-evolving retail collection at University Center to provide our guests with an exceptional shopping and dining experience.”