OC’s historic and cultural core is now an on-trend destination for foodies, nightlife fans, business owners and residents looking for the ultimate live-work-play alternative
What’s old is new again. Plus, trendier, tastier and infinitely more creative than you remember or ever thought possible.
The City of Santa Ana, the government seat and oldest city in Orange County, has been reborn as one of Southern California’s trendiest destinations for short- and long-term visitors looking for a uniquely creative urban vibe.
From a visitor attractions-per-square-mile standpoint, the 11th largest city in California and fourth densest in the U.S. offers a convincing case for its quickly broadening appeal: 490 restaurants, 60 art galleries, seven thriving retail sectors, two regional destination museums, one performing arts theater, and the nation’s premier e-sports arena.
To keep pace with the explosion of new short and long-term visitors in Santa Ana, there has been a simultaneous surge in new residential and office space. Among the highlights are the $500 million One Broadway Plaza, on track to be Orange County’s tallest office building by 2020, and $1 billion 625IVE The Gateway, the proposed 2.3 million-square-square-foot mixed-use makeover of the former Orange County Register site. Dozens of residential projects will also bring more than 3,400 affordable and luxury housing units to the city – much of it clustered in the creative downtown or adjacent to the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center and proposed OC Streetcar.
“We work hard to maintain the balance between accommodating these visitors and maintaining Santa Ana’s historic urban identity and tradition of community involvement,” said Marc Morley, the City’s economic development specialist. “We never forget that today’s urban explorers in search of food, art and culture choose Santa Ana precisely because it isn’t like the rest of Southern California. Maintaining that sense of specialness remains our top priority.”
Prime examples of blending the new with the old – specifically, the 60 historic buildings throughout downtown Santa Ana – include 4th Street Market, home to 15 innovative food stalls, the East End Incubator Kitchens and FoodBeast’s Kitchen Studio; and the 1922-4 Grand Central Building, converted in 1994 into the CSUF Grand Central Art Center, which helped inspire creation of Santa Ana’s now burgeoning Artists Village.
In 2000, ad agency DGWB (now Amusement Park) purchased and redeveloped the 1935 Art Deco-style Santa Ana City Hall building into its loft-like home and studios, and offices for other media and creative firms wanting a base in the City’s expanding arts district.
4th Street Market is only one of many foodie explosions happening throughout downtown Santa Ana. Jason Quinn changed the local food scene forever when, after winning TV’s “Great Food Truck Race” in 2011, he chose Santa Ana for his first brick-and-mortar gastropub, Playground. Around the same time several blocks away, Orange County restauranteur Jeff Hall was writing his own story for the corner of Third Street and Broadway called Chapter One: The Modern Local, serving a new take on pub fare made with local produce and seasonal ingredients from around the world. Together, the two restaurants helped usher in a plethora of East End and Downtown culinary destinations.
Probably Santa Ana’s most unexpected transformation is in retail – which, unlike most cities, includes seismic shifts at both ends of the retail spectrum: traditional malls and independent retailers. Interspersed among the quintessential Hispanic businesses on 4th Street are exclusive, trend-driven boutiques like Blends and Rif, while three miles up Main Street, the MainPlace Mall is reinventing the role of suburban mall as local retail incubator.
Arts and Culture
For a city approaching its Sesquicentennial in 2019 and long regarded as the county’s cultural capital, Santa Ana is bound to offer a dual personality with respect to culture and the arts. Certainly, for every world-class exhibit at the acclaimed Bowers Museum or Discovery Cube Orange County, there is a student performance at Orange County School of the Arts, or an exhibit of the avant-garde at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art.
About The City of Santa Ana
The City of Santa Ana, the government seat and oldest city in Orange County, Calif., has been reborn as one of Southern California’s trendiest destinations for short- and long-term visitors looking for a uniquely creative urban vibe. After allowing its colorful, culturally diverse and creatively charged roots to quietly fly under the radar for years, the city of more than 330,000 is proudly embracing its visitor- and resident-friendly eclecticism – as well as the tens of thousands of foodies, nightlife fans, business owners and new residents flocking here every month. For more information, visit https://santaanachamber.com/.